In a world first, Rotterdam’s Boijmans museum has put its entire collection on display in a mammoth new warehouse. As the V&A considers a similar experiment, is this ‘open storage’ model the future?
From a block away, it looks like a craft from a more advanced civilisation has landed in the centre of Rotterdam. The structure is futuristic, with walls of mirrored glass curving up some 40 metres, reflecting the iron-grey clouds and the fractured city skyline. It wouldn’t be surprising if it had a tractor beam instead of a door. As I draw close, a middle-aged Dutch couple are debating whether they like it. They decide not, but snap selfies in front of it anyway.
Rotterdammers are used to high-concept architecture, but what makes this building unusual is its function: it’s a warehouse. Designed by the Dutch firm MVRDV and known as the Depot, it has been created for one of the most well-regarded art museums in the Netherlands, the Boijmans Van Beuningen. When I visit in mid-September, contractors are installing vitrines and polishing concrete floors; in December, art handlers will begin moving in the museum’s collection of Rembrandts, Boschs, Magrittes and Dalís – some 150,000 objects. It will open fully late next year.