The Bonnefanten is situated on the banks of the River Maas, in the architecturally interesting district of Céramique, and forms a splendid addition to the skyline of Maastricht.

Bonnefantenmuseum, 2006, foto Kim Zwarts

Il museo di Maastricht

Around 1990, the Bonnefantenmuseum got the opportunity to construct a new building on ‘Céramique’, a former industrial estate right on the banks of the Maas, opposite the old centre of Maastricht. For the realisation of an outstanding building on this location, the museum approached Aldo Rossi, who (in the words of Van Grevenstein, museum director at the time) “coupled great expressive inventiveness with a reserved visual language”.

Rossi regarded the museum as a ‘viewing factory’. The new museum was to be a distinctive building which would do optimal justice to the works of art. The best solution for this was an original variation on the classical museum building; a succession of galleries lit from the top and sides, in a clear structure of wings arranged round one central staircase.

Bonnefantenmuseum, foto Kim Zwarts - 1.jpg

The Building

The Bonnefanten is situated on the banks of the River Maas, in the architecturally interesting district of Céramique, and forms a splendid addition to the skyline of Maastricht. Striking features of the museum are its zinc-covered domed tower (the cupola) and famous Treppenstraße (street of stairs) that leads to the exhibition rooms.

The E-shaped building, with four storeys and an exhibition space is constructed of traditional materials, like brick, natural stone and zinc, around a skeleton of concrete and steel. Indoors, the floors are mainly made of keruing wood. However, the most natural factor of all is the daylight, as the central staircase is actually a covered street, where you feel almost as if you were outdoors. On the second floor, the daylight interacts with the works of art. Walking around, the visitor goes through corridors alternately on the south and north sides of the central stairwell. The lighting effect is provided by the contrast between open and shut that dominates the building. The façades at the front and sides are shut, and the façades of the central wing, which forms the axis of the building, are open. This interplay of light and routing is emphasised by horizontal and vertical openings, which turn the visit into a ‘promenade architecturale’.

Bonnefantenmuseum, 2006, foto Kim Zwarts

The new building was commissioned by the Province of Limburg and was opened to the public in March 1995.

For Rossi, the museum demonstrated the importance of public buildings for the identity of the city. Along with his light-hearted research into the typological foundation of this building, he gave form to the idea in some prints and the text Verlust der Mitte. The cultural philosopher Guido Goossens wrote about the philosophical and symbolic meaning of the building in his book ‘Bonnefantenmuseum Het gebouw’ (2007). This book is available in the museumshop.

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