During a short period at the end of the 19th century, three great cultural buildings arose around today’s Museumplein, then an empty meadow: the Rijksmuseum (1885), the Concertgebouw (1888) and the Stedelijk Museum (1895). A. W. Weissman, Amsterdam’s city architect, designed the Stedelijk. With its gable end and small tower, the exterior, built in red brick with stone dressings, refers to 16th-century Dutch Renaissance architecture.
Over the years the interior has been regularly modernized and adapted for the demands of the times. In 1938 Sandberg had the hall literally whitewashed, erasing memories of the past.
After 1945 Sandberg continued his modernization. In the 1950s the auditorium (with a café called the Appel Bar next to it), the restaurant, the library and reading room, the museum shop and the print cabinet all came into being. There were not only renovations, but also extensions. In 1954 the New Wing, as conceived by Sandberg, arose along the Van Baerlestraat. Openness was his motto; the last traces of 19th-century exclusivity disappeared with the replacement of the heavy front door with a glass entry.
In the period 1945–54, the Museum’s total usable space was nearly doubled by the insertion of intermediate stories. About three-quarters of the new construction was intended for offices, restoration and photographic studios (accommodating 200 staff members as of 2002) and storage facilities. The rest expanded the galleries, from 4550 sq. meters in 1945 to 6090 sq. meters in 1954. The number of annual visitors also doubled during that period, from 100,000 to 200,000. Presently the figure is about 400,000.
Over a century after it opened, Weissman’s building still offers comfortable galleries with splendid natural lighting. However, inadequate maintenance and lack of climate control has allowed the building to become sadly outdated.
The historic building of the Stedelijk is thoroughly renovated to house the first comprehensive installation of the museum’s renowned permanent collection of modern and contemporary art and design. At the same time, a boldly contemporary new building designed by Dutch bureau Benthem Crouwel Architects is constructed to house the museum’s influential temporary exhibitions and a range of public amenities. The new 10,000 square meter structure (98,400 square feet) reorient the entire Museum to face onto the great public lawn of Amsterdam’s Museumplein (Museum Plaza), creating an active common ground for the first time among the Stedelijk and its neighbors, the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum and the Concertgebouw.