The parasitical egg

A bitter denunciation

(only available in English)

A BLOT on a building that I have started
to love and appreciate while writing this

Top view of Museum de Fundatie as parasitical egg
Image 1, The parasitical egg – Museum de Fundatie (Based on (Van de Biezen, n.d.))

The egg

The cloud

The eye

The UFO

The rugby ball

Museum De Fundatie knows many names of which only a selection is given above. Each inference showing a take on the parasitical shape placed on its 1838 neoclassical origin.

The original palace of justice of architect Eduard Louis de Coninck has been overpowered with a new addition by architect Hubert-Jan Henket from BiermanHenket architects. Even though the building looks nothing like previous work from the architect, also this design is, according to the architect himself, built using the same logic as he applied to all his designs (Architectuur.org, n.d.). Nevertheless, the logic the architect is referring to remains a mystery looking at the parasite topping off the original palace. However, let’s assume for a second the architect is right and take a closer look to this new addition and the architects logic applied to it.

Infesting the host

While the building is often photographed as a singular building located in a larger open area with some small outbuildings accompanying it, the building is actually located within the busy city centre of Zwolle right on the boundary between the old medieval centre and the newer surrounding neighbourhoods. The original palace was built on the outskirts of the then existing city, forming, due to its location, a link between the inside oriented medieval city and the dynamic park landscape surrounding it. 

Historic image of Museum de Fundatie
Image 2, Historic image Museum de Fundatie (Berends, 2019)

Being asked to design an addition to the building Henket decided that extending the existing building towards the canal surrounding the old town was not possible breaking the symmetry of the palace. With no option to extend towards the city centre due to the existing grain and no technical feasibility to extend into the ground the only option to infest the host remained to build on top of the existing building. The placement of the extension is justified by arguing that not only the symmetry of the palace remains intact but that also the solitary character of the building, created by the juxtaposed placement of the building to its surrounding neighbours, remains unblemished (Cheung Sam, 2013). 

Map of Zwolle 2020
Image 3, Map Zwolle 2020 (Mapstyle, 2020)

And surprisingly Henket was completely right. By adding to the building in this fashion no alterations were made to the city and its urban structure and grain in 2D, conserving the city and its buildings on the drawing board making the building look perfect on paper. And also in 3D they were completely right because singular it remains. By adding to the height of the structure it almost reaches the attention normally only given to the churches within these older centres. By not paying attention to the scale of what is surrounding the palace even more emphasis is placed on this einzelgänger. He was actually completely right. The building has become an alien within the existing medieval town drawing all the attention to the parasite instead of to the heritage it should be trying to preserve, letting it slowly be devoured by the new.

Streetview of Museum de Fundatie
Image 4, Demanding attention (Jacobs, 2014)

Adapting to a host specific morphology

While the architect thus applied his immaculate logic to the placement of the addition topping off the former palace he applied the same logic to the choice of the form for this addition. Apparently by adding a new form on top of the former building the double symmetry of the building can be guaranteed. Sadly, looking at the façade drawing the architect’s righteousness and logic is now being questioned. The symmetry of the existing building is conserved but looking at the placement of the window in the new addition the carefully conserved symmetry is dishonoured. However, assuming the architect must also be right here, we might only need to see the double symmetry of the complete building from the canal and sides disregarding it from the busy street at the centre side of the building. Moreover, this north-facing window is ‘the’ link of the new egg to the former medieval town, a vista towards the old centre. That this link is a pure coincidence (Cheung Sam, 2013) adds to the understanding of the plausible logic applied by this architect placing more emphasis on the functionality by having north-facing light on the objects within the building than on the heritage shelter surrounding these objects.

North facade of Museum de Fundatie
Image 5, Dishonouring symmetry – North facade (Jacobs, 2014)

For the form of this shelter the architect explained to Architectenweb that by contrasting the form of the palace with the newer ellipse form the symmetry of the palace with its historical layering is done more justice (Cheung Sam, 2013). With the symmetry of the building, as we have already seen, being compromised, this thus clearly is not what the architect was referring to. He, therefore, must have referred to the historical layering of the former building. With the building functioning as a courthouse, office for the national planning service, and a museum for naïve and outsider art (Berends, 2019), before it became the current museum for visual art, the historical layering is quite extensive. With the egg being so different in shape from anything else, a real outsider, and showing a clear language that can be taken in by sight, visual ‘art’, the building thus really does justice to its former history. Thus proving to be the answer to what was meant by the architect. Luckily it can be seen that the architect was right again proving us wrong to question his logic.

Consuming the host’s attention

This ellipse form has been placed on the building using eight steal columns put out of sight within the walls of the museum halls (Cheung Sam, 2013) wondering how the reversibility, that is advocated for so extensively within international charters like the Burra Charter, is ensured here. The reversibility of the new addition, and with that the logic of our Henket, is further questioned looking at the large elevator penetrating the total building from top to bottom and placed dead centre in the former palace. However, the guideline to create a clear distinction between the old and the new, which next to reversibility is also asked for in international charters like the Burra Charter, is met with this element thus proving that we jumped to conclusion too soon and were wrong to question the logic of our architect. The glass elevator not only guarantees the continuation of the central atrium as the connection between all rooms within the building as well as the emphasis on the immense size of the room it also clearly shows its presence and distinguishes itself from the existing, demanding all the  attention, sucking it away from the original room itself, and only signifying to what lies beyond. 

Elevator within the main hall of Museum de Fundatie
Image 6, Overpowering the room (Jacobs, 2014)

That what lies beyond has been placed on the existing building using a glass band of windows to ensure, according to Henket, a hovering character (Cheung Sam, 2013). The insight shows a transparent band of windows detaching the old and the new, highlighting what was added in a later time and creating an almost hovering character proving the undisputed logic and righteousness of our architect. That this characteristic is not met on the outside where a tight bond between the two can be found showing little respect for the once grand palace of justice due to the non-transparent character of the windows during the day is just a minor detail.

Connection detail old and new Museum de Fundatie
Image 7, A ‘hovering’ illusion – connection old new (Jacobs, 2014)

Looking at the detailing of the actual addition our trust placed in the architect is validated once again. Where the former architect educated in the architectural ornament (Berends, 2019) showing this clearly visible in the palace, the new architect also placed emphasis on the ornamentation of his beloved egg. He explained that the tiles placed on the shell of the building are purposefully placed without using a pattern to make sure people do not get used to the building and remain interested over time (Cheung Sam, 2013). With the melee white-blue glazed tiles not letting the egg merge with the sky behind as intended it is made sure that people cannot look anywhere else than to this new addition keeping it the main focus at all time. Thus proving again the undisputed logic and righteousness of our architect.

Museum de Fundatie facade image
Image 8, An ‘unwitnessed’ addition (Wikipedia, 2020)

Manipulating evolution

The same conformity between the old and the new, as with the emphasis on decoration, can be found in the nostalgia to a former time. The design of De Coninck shows a nostalgia to the classical period as was prevailing in that time (Berends, 2019). While the new design of Henket does not show a nostalgia to the classical period, it reminds of a different period in time namely the Viennese secession. Making sure to also here follow and comply to the logic of the original building, recreating what already was in a former period in time, Henket creates a clear resemblance to The Secession Building in Vienna by Joseph Maria Olbrich from 1898. He even goes so far in his initial proposal with the creation of a golden egg on the former palace that his originality is in danger of being questioned. Luckily, changes were made to the colour of the new addition making sure no one can question the architects originality anymore.

The Secession Building in Vienna of Joseph Maria Olbrich
Image 9, Undisputed originality – The Secession Building (Glory, 2020)

A parasitic symbiotic relationship

With the undisputed logic and unparalleled righteousness of our architect you might wonder how such a design was ever allowed to be built. A clever trick was also applied here to make sure the new egg could infest its host. Referring to ‘preservation through development’ the new design was able to not only withstand the usual debates and procedures. It even shortened them considerably (Cheung Sam, 2013). A building permit was never granted as fast before in history. You have to give it to the developers and architects, a clever business move. Trump and his twitter account would have definitely applauded for this one. 

While it may be granted that the design brief has not been easy, the solution is also not logical or doing justice to the former building. Although not all aspects of the new addition are as wretched as sometimes portrayed, some people even loving the building, it has been a heavily debated design. With no attention given to reversibility, and an overly amount of attention given to a distinction between the old and the new, an overpowering and attention demanding egg has been placed on the former palace of justice.  The parasitical egg (as the addition can also officially be titled according to Bollack (2013)) draws like a real parasite all the attention to itself devouring the existing and creating a new alien-specie within the urban landscape not instantly killings its host but slowly sucking the life out of it.

Top view of Museum de Fundatie as parasitical egg
Image 10, The new alien specie (Based on (Van den Biezen, n.d.))

References

Architectuur.org. (n.d.). Museum De Fundatie. Retrieved May 25, 2020, from https://www.architectuur.org/bouwwerk/629/Museum_De_Fundatie.html

Berends, E.-J. (2019). De historie van net Paleis van Justitie, Museum de Fundatie. https://deswollenaer.nl/algemeen/de-historie-van-net-paleis-van-justitie-museum-de-fundatie

Bollack, F. (2013). Old Buildings, New Forms (1st ed.). Monacelli Press. https://www.architectmagazine.com/design/francoise-bollacks-new-book-highlights-the-most-innovative-adaptive-reuse-projects_o

Cheung Sam, N. (2013). Uitgebreid Museum De Fundatie opent deuren. https://architectenweb.nl/nieuws/artikel.aspx?ID=31514

Clipartmax*. (2018). Bfdi Arms Up Asking Arm. https://www.clipartmax.com/so/arms-up-clipart/

Glory. (2020). The Vienna Secession Building and Gustav Klimt’s “Beethoven Frieze.” https://www.gscinparis.com/the-vienna-secession-building-and-gustav-klimts-beethoven-frieze/

Jacobs, J. (2014). Museum de Fundatie / Bierman Henket architecten. https://www.archdaily.com/458073/museum-de-fundatie-bierman-henket-architecten

Mapstyle. (2020). Create map style. https://mapstyle.withgoogle.com

PurePNG*. (n.d.). Nature. Retrieved June 4, 2020, from https://www.pinterest.com/pin/675610381577581597/

Stickpng*. (n.d.). Download Speech Bubble transparent PNG. Retrieved June 4, 2020, from https://www.stickpng.com/img/miscellaneous/conversations/speech-bubble

Van de Biezen, M. (n.d.). No Title. Retrieved June 4, 2020, from http://www.hollandluchtfoto.nl/media/b3e4a046-7d90-4c61-828b-6eb788ad300d-zwolle-luchtfoto-van-museum-de-fundatie

Wikipedia. (2019). Museum de Fundatie. https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Museum_de_Fundatie

*Used to create image 1 and 10