Project Nieuwe Ooster

Funeral Museum De Nieuwe Ooster, Cemetery East in Amsterdam

Architects; Harry Kerssen&Arie Graafland,

Client: De Nieuwe Ooster cemetery, Amsterdam

Location: Park Cemetery East Amsterdam

Completion: 2006-2008

Built by Staartjes & La Grouw, Amsterdam

Award; the project was selected as one of 17 of Amsterdam’s best architectural projects in 2008. See Arcam publication

Design Concept; the building refers to the German philosopher Ernst Bloch. In his book Das Prinzip Hoffnung, ‘Building in Empty Spaces’ he qualifies Modern architecture as always ready to go on travel. In other words, it has no stable ground. The context of the Modern building seems to be disappearing into tabula rasa. Modern architecture is the architecture of disappearance. The relation to ground, to its specific context is however paramount in the Funeral Museum. Its minimalistic architecture relates to Mies van der Rohe’s ‘silence’ in architecture, and at the same time questions its relation to ‘ground’. The structure of the square, with the elevated box for the museum space is no doubt a modern design principle. But at the same time the relation to ‘ground’ is reversed by literally sinking the complete building into the ground. The site is excavated, the building reformulates our relation to life and death, the ‘travel’ of man has finally reached its end. This ‘sinking into the ground’ confirms man’s relation to death, the building has become site specific. The main entrance to the building is a ceremonial slope, a long route into the entrance hall and reception space. The visitor is made aware of the ceremony of ‘descending’ into the earth. There are no steps leading to the main entrance. The Museum is connected to the existing gravedigger house which functions as a ‘remnant’ of the old condition of the cemetery and is reused as exhibit space and offices. This existing building is internally connected by the long axis that leads to the dead end in the wedge-shaped space outside the building which is used as terrace. The long axis contains a ‘pit’ inside the corridor in which and urn is visible where documents are kept alive for one hundred years to predict the future of burial ceremonies. The pit will not be opened before the year 2106. Inside the spaces are flexible, sliding walls close and open to different configurations in use. The large exhibition hall is an open space with movable interior exhibits, the interior is open, not fixed. Different uses are possible in one and the same space. The glass wall of the main exhibition space opens up to the cemetery garden and wedge outside. The gardens were designed by the Dutch landscape architect Leonard Springer (1855-1940) who designed many Dutch cemeteries, the Nieuwe Ooster one of his major projects at the time. Springer’s competition entry was named “Ashes”, he designed a landscape park which housed 3000 graves for the well to do, and 50.000 graves for the poor. The Nieuwe Ooster Park is conservation area, changes are only allowed when they fit in with the concepts of Springer’s garden. The location of the Museum is right at the opening of the park and confirms Springer’s ideas on Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust.

Visit website KerssenGraafland