Hermitage Amsterdam

From Amstelhof to Hermitage Amsterdam

Amstelhof Outdated

Healthcare was changing fast. The average age of Amstelhof’s residents was rising, and those who were admitted were themselves already older. There were generally around 350 residents. The demands of the modern age, the professionalisation of medical care and care of the elderly, the funding by AWBZ all impacted on Amstelhof over the decades. The issue of the future of Amstelhof and its patients was raised with increasing frequency.

In the end, it was decided that it was futile to keep rebuilding and adapting Amstelhof. So staff and patients were relocated to new buildings elsewhere and to other Cordaan facilities.

The move was necessary for both patients and staff. Yet it was an emotional time for all concerned. After all, the patients had to say goodbye to their wonderful location in the centre of Amsterdam. Of course, in return they received far better accommodation in residential facilities that met modern standards.

Museum Construction: Phase 1 Neerlandia

In 1888 the Deanery built a home for married couples beside Amstelhof: Neerlandia. This is where the Hermitage Amsterdam adventure started in 2004. Following a brief yet thorough renovation, the building was transformed into a museum in which visitors were introduced to selections from the Hermitage collection in Russia.

There was a shop and a restaurant. And in the attic there was space for school groups and young protégés to learn and study.

The first phase of Hermitage Amsterdam was a highly successful trial for the real thing: today’s Hermitage Amsterdam in Amstelhof. Neerlandia is now devoted entirely to youth: Children’s Hermitage.

Museum Construction: Phase 2 Amstelhof

In the space of two years, between June 2007 and June 2009, a metamorphosis took place on the River Amstel: Amstelhof nursing home was transformed into a modern museum: Hermitage Amsterdam.

Various architects were involved in this comprehensive building project: Hans van Heeswijk for the building itself, Merkx+Girod for the interior and Michael van Gessel for the garden.

Building: Hans van Heeswijk

The exterior of the historic building had to remain unchanged. Of course it was cleaned, painted and tidied up.

The walls are slightly lighter in colour than before. Today the building looks from the outside the way it looked in 1683, when it opened: a strong building with a sober quality.

Lighter

Inside, however, everything is different. Over the centuries many changes had been made in Amstelhof. Little remained of the original seventeenth-century interior. That gave the architects carte blanche. “Inside, the building is three times as light and spacious as you’d expect from outside.” Walls and ceilings were removed, to create two large exhibition wings. The galleries are lined by cabinets, based on the division into rooms in the original nursing home (see chambrettes).

Each wing presents an exhibition while the next presentation is being prepared in the other wing.

Entrance

Visitors enter the museum via Ossenpoort, the former tradesman’s entrance along the Amstel. To provide sufficient space for visitors, the original entrance has been deepened. Once inside, visitors cross the courtyard to the museum foyer on the other side. This is the central meeting point: here there’s a museum restaurant, and a large auditorium.

Amstel Wing

The Amstel Wing of the museum still recalls the building’s original function. In the centre stands the church hall, now restored to its former glory. This room is used for receptions, as it used to be in the past. Either corner of this wing has boardrooms. The governesses’ room has been restored to its state in around 1930: here visitors can see what the building looked like when the governesses ran the nursing home. The governors’ room at the other corner is now a contemporary lounge for friends of the museum.

Russia room and Amstelhof room

Two permanent exhibition rooms are situated in the Amstel Wing. One focuses on the connection between Holland and Russia. The other on the history of patient care in Amsterdam, particularly care of the elderly at Amstelhof.

Resource Centre

The resource centre offers visitors all kinds of information about the history of Russia, Russian-Dutch relations, the Hermitage in St Petersburg and the history of Amstelhof.

Hans van Heeswijk Biography

Hans van Heeswijk (b. 1952) graduated in architecture at Delft Technical University. He was subsequently apprenticed to Aldo van Eyck in Amsterdam. In 1985, four years later, he set up his own architectural office, also in Amsterdam. Meanwhile he has completed numerous prestigious projects, in which clarity and light form a definite leitmotif. These are terms that certainly fit Hermitage Amsterdam.

Interior: Merkx+Girod

Sober, clinical and contemporary are qualities that characterise Hermitage Amsterdam’s interior. With a few golden eggs here and there: special elements to create an atmosphere. Evelyne Merkx and her team focus on more than just the interior; they analyse the building as a whole. That forms the basis for their designs for the various spaces inside the building. They then develop museum component packages to be located in different parts of the building. The reinforced walls - plain, light, some with peepholes - contain the constructions and installations that every museum needs. Also included in some places in the walls are seats, showcases and signing. By structuring everything in this way, a clear image emerges: simple and sober. In short: harmony.

Merkx+Girod Biography

In 1985, interior architect Evelyne Merkx set up her own design studio. Since 1998 she and architect Patrice Girod have formed a joint architectural and interior architecture bureau. They have been responsible for many projects ranging from the refurbishing of Hema department store to the extension of the Raad van State building. Merkx+Girod employs a staff of around thirty and is located in Amsterdam.

Garden: Michael van Gessel landscape architect

The courtyard has served many functions over the years. For a while it was a bleach field for laundry. Following a thorough restoration in the 1970s, garden architect Mien Ruys was commissioned to design a new garden. She rearranged the grounds in a practical and functional fashion, with gravel tiles, railway sleepers, seats and of course plenty of greenery.

Naturally, a museum garden has an entirely different function. Van Gessel drew inspiration from the building. He took out much of what was there, but left the large chestnut trees that had been there for over 200 years. They are the feature of the garden. These are accompanied by bulb flowers in the spring and lots of grass. The lawn is surrounded by a stone perimeter that visitors can use to sit on. Across the lawn is a path, leading from Ossenpoort to the foyer. “A wonderful place, in the heart of the city, green and serene. The garden draws attention to the building, to the rhythm of the building. The garden isn’t trying to do more than it can, it has a simple message. That’s what I like,” explains Michael van Gessel.

Michael van Gessel

Van Gessel graduated in garden and landscape architecture at the Agricultural Institute in Wageningen. Later, he worked for Bureau B + B. Since 1997, he has worked as a freelance advisor on landscape architecture and urban planning. He designed the garden for Belvédère Museum in Oranjewoud near Herenveen. He also supervised the renovation of Amsterdam’s Vondel Park and the public open spaces on IJburg.

Opening hours

Daily 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Closed on 25 December 2014 and 27 April 2015

© State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

The Hermitage Amsterdam is located on Amstel 51, Amsterdam

Photo Janiek Dam

More information:
+31 (0)20 530 74 88

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+31 (0)20 530 87 55