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Amsterdam's iconic "bathtub" to open this month


September 13, 2012

Stedelijk Museum's hulking "bathtub" extension (Photo: John Lewis Marshall and Jannes Linders)

Stedelijk Museum's hulking "bathtub" extension (Photo: John Lewis Marshall and Jannes Linders)

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It's been compared, possibly with fairness, to both a bathtub and a kitchen sink. Indeed, "the bathtub" appears to be its unofficial nickname, coined by lead architect Mels Crouwel. What's undeniable is that the newly-completed extension to Amsterdam's Stedelijk Museum is different, and in a very specific sense.

The expansive white addition to the building, designed Benthem Crouwel Architects, couldn't look more different to the museum's existing 19th century red brick construction designed by Adriaan Willem Weissman. The received wisdom (though perhaps not among architects themselves) that extensions should do their utmost to match their architectural progenitor has clearly been rejected. But distinctiveness does not necessarily imply dissonance.

Running the entire length of the museum, the extension, which is made from reinforced fiber, has a footprint of 98,400 ft2 (about 9,100 m2) and gives the building a new entrance and front façade on Museumplein, not to mention a new, iconic visual identity which is almost certain to polarize opinion.

The museum is set to reopen September 23.

Sources: Benthem Crouwel Architects and Stedelijk Museum, via Dezeen

About the Author
James Holloway James lives in East London where he punctuates endless tea drinking with freelance writing and meteorological angst. Unlocking Every Extend Extra Extreme’s “Master of Extreme” achievement was the fourth proudest moment of his life. All articles by James Holloway

A quonset hut would be more attractive, but at least it won't make people physically ill like the new art museum in Denver.


Interesting and certainly iconic- would love to see this in the flesh, so to speak, to form a definite opinion.

London already has what has affectionately been dubbed 'The Gherkin' which was also controversial, but now is a much-loved part of the London skyline. Sometimes it takes a little while to get used to something on the scale as 'The Bathtub' but it is good to have buildings that are fun to look at as well as practical and interesting.


Considering the building material used, I would have thought that perhaps a little more detailed artistry might have been employed. Maybe they can decorated the exterior with some facade.


What a joke, what's next a toilet ? funny the city approved this colossal urban eyesore !

Jay Finke

Wow. Definitely a question of taste... I don't understand the thinking behind such an aesthetically discordant look. I think an updated look could have been achieved still using elements of the existing structure for a more visually harmonic appearance. I think in cities with such a rich architectural heritage it's a challenge to introduce the modern and make it work with the existing surroundings.


@Jay Finke: The architectural concept of "Museum shaped like a toilet" was done long ago: 1959. Frank Lloyd Wright chose white to mimic typical ceramic bathrooms. And, both inside and out, he included imagery of swirling vortices to drive home the point.


The original building is art. The thing next to it is at best blank canvas.

Joseph Mertens

"I may not know art, but I know what I like...." And that ain't it.


Considering Amsterdam's location, perhaps there's more to the "Bathtub" than meets the eye. It might be water proof and float since it brings to mind the ships built to save some of humankind in the movie 2012. Sort of a squared off ship that a prop or something could be added to. So it could be a great way to save their collection or at least what they deem the important pieces.

Sherry Friedrichs

I think everyone is missing the point.

The museum is about attracting people into what is inside and no better way than by having a eye catching design that appeals to passing public. Its also free worldwide advertising that another similar building to the existing one would not have achieved.

Architecture needs to evolve and testing new formats is how we get there.

Besides if everyone enjoys going to their bathroom then why not associate that emotion with a museum. And attract people to use it.

Alex Da Silva

A toilet or a bidet would have been a more appropriate design and metaphor for this architect's onanistic ejaculation on the fabric of a beautiful city. Like the presidential semen on the infamous blue dress, it stains the city, soiled and mute proof of modern architecture's pathological need for self-gratification and excess.

John Monro
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