Slapstick architecture: how a €3.99 Ikea salad bowl became part of the Rotterdam skyline | Architecture

Inspiration usually strikes at lunch in the workplace of Dutch architects MVRDV. It’s the one second in the day when everybody breaks from their screens and comes collectively round a lengthy communal eating desk, unfold with assorted salads, to eat and chat. One fateful day in 2013, throughout a lunchtime brainstorming session, the tableware would show to be extra inspirational than ever. Eight years on, a monumental Ikea salad bowl has been added to the Rotterdam skyline – a €3.99 Blanda Blank rising 40 metres excessive.

Bowled over ... the Ikea Blanda Blank
Shocked … the Ikea Blanda Clean {Photograph}: Ikea

“I used to be in search of one thing spherical,” says Winy Maas, the puckish frontman of MVRDV, describing the origins of the Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen. This €94m (£80m) open archive for the metropolis’s artwork museum now stands as a colossal mirrored bowl in Rotterdam’s Museumpark, reflecting the environment in a surreal panorama. “The interns had put a large rectangular block of Styrofoam on the website mannequin,” Maas recollects. “It was too impolite. I believed one thing spherical could be nicer to our neighbours, so I changed it with a mug. Then we needed to scale back the footprint, so I grabbed the stainless-steel bowl, with its good mirroring facet. That was it.”

Such is the design course of in an workplace based on whimsical spectacle. Maas revels in turning fashions the wrong way up, or grabbing no matter is handy and including it to the combine. One mission started as a cluster of blocks earlier than he draped a material over the mannequin, turning it into a lumpy hill. One other constructing, with house-sized blocks dramatically cantilevered from its side, was the outcome of a mannequin of a grid of little towers being mistakenly positioned horizontally on the desk. The comical course of is intrinsic to the apply’s quirky Superdutch model, and key to their international exportability. (For the Depot launch, a devoted press convention was held in Chinese language.) As architectural slapstick, their work transcends cultural boundaries.

Backsides of paintings and undersides of sculptures … the depot offers a glimpse behind the scenes of the collection.
Backsides and undersides … the depot presents a glimpse behind the scenes of the artwork assortment. {Photograph}: Ossip van Duivenbode

Rotterdam, Maas thinks, is especially suited to such eccentric form-making. “It isn’t a metropolis with common urbanism,” he says. It was flattened in the second world battle, and the many years since have seen all method of unusual experiments, from rotated cube-houses on stilts to MVRDV’s personal elephantine market corridor (one other outcome of a mannequin being turned the wrong way up). “It’s about making objects. Each era makes its mark, and the subsequent reacts.”

This specific mark had a bumpy experience. MVRDV initially received the Depot mission in 2007, with a design that regarded like one other Ikea basic, the Lack table. It was to be a gargantuan sq. platform on 35m-high legs, with cranes lifting crates up and down in a vertical ballet of storage, but it surely was deemed a step too far, even for Rotterdam. MVRDV received a second competitors in 2014, however they have been then disqualified after it emerged Maas had met the Boijmans co-director, Sjarel Ex, during the process. The architects challenged the ruling, claiming they’d no unfair benefit, and have been reinstated. The design confronted a barrage of opposition from neighbours – the close by Kunsthal director feared it could be the “cannibal” of the park – however the metropolis gave approval, and has duly positioned it on the cowl of its vacationer map as the newest star attraction.

In the age of Instagram, this supersized salad bowl has already proved to be an irresistible selfie-magnet. On the blustery opening weekend, with icy winds whipping round the Depot’s streamlined flanks, Rotterdammers got here in droves to {photograph} themselves mirrored in its bulging pores and skin. The thought was to create one thing akin to Anish Kapoor’s mirrored bean sculpture in Chicago, however cladding the Depot with seamless, polished metal proved far too costly, so panels of mirror-coated glass have been chosen as a substitute. It creates a related impression from a distance, the place the skyline is captured in a compressed ball however, as you get nearer, it’s extra like a low-budget corridor of mirrors. The Chinese language-made panels are clipped on to the concrete bowl in a broadly spaced grid, their warped surfaces giving it the look of a pound-shop Kapoor – one which comes with an annual window cleansing invoice of €50,000.

Rooftop garden … the promised forest is in fact a ring of trees around the edge.
Rooftop backyard … the promised forest is in truth a ring of bushes round the edge. {Photograph}: Ossip van Duivenbode

The architects say the ambition was to create a constructing that “appears to vanish into its environment”, however a 13-storey excessive mirrorball does something however – as the neighbouring Erasmus hospital at all times feared. The hospital fiercely opposed the project, and it has now needed to erect a display to stop youngsters in the psychiatric ward having extreme visible stimulation. Maas guarantees that a row of freshly planted bushes will quickly assist, however this gleaming ark is just not an excellent neighbour for anybody wishing to retain their sanity.

As soon as inside the large bowl, €20 ticket in hand, guests are free to roam its six flooring, the place some of the 151,000 objects in the Boijmans assortment are seen by way of home windows in the thick concrete partitions. You get to glimpse racks of outdated masters, bits of Memphis furnishings in crates, and piles of Yayoi Kusama’s red-spotted phalluses being examined by conservators. The collections have been beforehand housed throughout seven totally different websites, together with the flood-prone museum basement, so that is a distinct improve for the security of the €8bn assortment.

To compensate for the loss of park, the constructing is topped with a rooftop backyard. While you attain the summit, it seems that the promised forest is in truth a ring of bushes round the edge, with a restaurant and rentable occasion room taking on most of the roof. The bushes are fortunately faring higher than these on MVRDV’s ill-fated Marble Arch Mound, right here grown in a nursery with their roots intertwined for stability in opposition to the wind.

‘This is not a museum’ … but visitors can don a protective white coat and sign up for a tour.
‘This isn’t a museum’ … however guests can don a protecting white coat and join a tour. {Photograph}: Ossip van Duivenbode

Beneath, crisscrossing staircases leap their method up by way of the dimly lit atrium, which has the air of a Bond villain’s mineshaft hideaway. The vertiginous house is dotted with large glass vitrines that includes objects from the assortment, the place you’ll be able to see the backsides of work and the undersides of sculptures. Views into the shops present uncommon juxtapositions – a pair of mating dwarfs subsequent to a phone – as the objects are organized by materials and dimension, reasonably than chronology. There are not any labels or captions (“This isn’t a museum,” I’m advised), however guests can obtain an app and scan QR codes to search out out about some of the objects. For a extra behind-the-scenes expertise you may also don a protecting white coat and join a tour, which takes you into one of the 14 retailer rooms, the place a information will pull out a single designated rack and inform you about the conservation strategies. However don’t count on to view a Rothko or Bruegel – the stars of the assortment are too valuable to be wheeled out.

Such is the actuality of fragile artwork storage. It’s a worthy ambition to open the back-of-house world to public view – an concept being adopted by the V&A with its Olympic Park Storehouse in London – however the reality is that you just don’t really get to see a lot. Most visitable elements of the constructing really home the personal artwork collections of companies, similar to Rabobank or the KPN cellphone community, which amassed a haul of Dutch up to date artwork in the Eighties as part of its company social duty programme. There’s a freeport right here, too, the place sellers can retailer artwork with out paying tax. Such industrial features have helped to make the mission stack up, together with €42m raised from personal sources, however the hefty ticket value appears at odds with a lot of the constructing being a company showcase to burnish large manufacturers.

A worthy ambition … but the truth is that you don’t actually get to see much.
‘A worthy ambition … however the reality is that you just don’t really get to see a lot.’ {Photograph}: Ossip van Duivenbode

There’s additionally the extra elementary query of how well-suited a round bowl is to the operate of storing artwork. In the primary semi-circular portray retailer, the curved geometry creates a pleasing fan-shape of racks, however in different wedge-shaped rooms the racks are compelled to taper into unusable triangular corners, or match round columns. The storage has been compelled to suit the quirks of the constructing, reasonably than the different method round, which looks like an odd solution to design an artwork retailer.

“It’s not dysfunctional,” says Boijmans co-director, Ina Klaassen, “however we had a problem. In fact a rectangular constructing would have been simpler, however that is a lot extra enjoyable. We needed one thing iconic.”

That’s the museum’s achilles heel. It’s at present engaged in a €260m renovation of its good-looking Nineteen Thirties constructing, led by icon-makers Mecanoo, whose wiggly formed plan includes demolishing a complete (award-winning) wing that was solely in-built 2003, at a value of €17m. Its architects, Robbrecht and Daem, are suing the museum to try to prevent demolition, and it’s arduous to not view the proposal as an act of staggeringly wasteful vandalism, notably given the local weather emergency.

No matter the final result, when the museum lastly reopens in 2028, it’s going to have the final supersized selfie mirror to admire its new curves.

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