Wednesday 27 March 2019

An Infallible Exhibition Space

Voorlinden floor plan for temporary exhibitions, route from entrance
This is the floor plan of the space reserved for temporary exhibitions inside the private Voorlinden Museum in Wassenaar, the Netherlands. It is a space that is almost infallible in guiding the visitor through the exhibition in a perfect pace.
Let me give you a small walkthrough of the exhibition experience:
The entrance to the rooms which are reserved for the temporary exhibition sits right across from the entrance to the museum. One thus has immediate access to the space of the exhibitions, while they are still clearly distinguished from the entrance hall.
When one enters the exhibition area there is a small space, about six by seven meters, if I had to estimate from memory. This space commonly houses one or two, fairly large, works from the museum's own collection and serves as an introduction to the artist on show.
Next up is a large room, about double the size of the previous. This room really allows for several works to be shown together and a large ensemble to be created. In this room there is also a secondary entrance, that allows the visitor to skip the 'introductory' room when revisiting the space from elsewhere in the museum.
After this larger room there is again a smaller room, allowing for some intimacy with smaller works and a less overwhelming overview, giving a feeling of peace, quiet and intimacy, to what in most cases can only be described as blockbuster exhibitions.
This is again followed by a large room, similar in dimensions as the second room, that tends to focus attention on one single aspect of the work, particularly in a somewhat later stage of the artist's career.
The room that follows is again a smaller room, repeating the small-large rhythm from the previous rooms. It's also worth noting that the entrance to this room lies in extension to the previous room, allowing a very direct visual connection between the two. It is therefore unsurprising that this smaller room often offers a kind of footnote to offset the works shown in the previous space.
The visitors' journey culminates in the last room, that is the biggest of all, and therefore allows for a real crescendo of some very impressive, large-scale work, ending a route of a perfect ebb and flow on an almost overwhelming high.
With this information in mind, compare the original design with the final floor plan:
Voorlinden floor plan for temporary exhibitions, original design
Voorlinden floor plan for temporary exhibitions, final design
The differences between the two are small. In fact, the only difference is the inclusion of one separating wall in the middle of three nearly-identical spaces.
While the original design allows for visitors to weave in and out of the space, with each of those spaces being very similar, the final design is much more balanced. Where the original houses 1 small room, 3 medium-sized rooms and 1 large room, the final design as 3 small rooms, 2 medium-sized rooms and 1 large room, creating a near-perfectly balanced pyramid of space.

It could be argued that this is an extremely boring set-up for a museum as it is an almost guaranteed hit with a very satisfying experience for the visitor and it is telling that this kind of lay-out is used for the largest private museum in the Netherlands, in which a private collection is made public by a member of the public that will most likely reflect the public's taste in a predictable manner.