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The Groninger Museum is one of the strangest museums in the world. Located near the central station of northern Dutch city Groningen, the museum is one of the architectural highlights of Italian designer Alessandro Mendini. The building itself is the most important piece of art, just like for instance the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and many other modern museums.

The museum building – entirely surrounded by water - consists of many different architectural styles:

  • The golden tower
    The first thing you will see is the large golden tower that outlines the centre of the museum. It is entirely coloured gold for a symbolic reason, since it’s the depot of the museum. Mendini sees it as the treasury room where all the museum’s belongings are deposited. Normally you will not have access to this tower. When I worked for TV Noord, a local television station, I managed to get inside the golden tower for an item on Dutch winter landscapes. The depot is fascinating, but it made me sad as well: it looks like about 99% of all available art is just collecting dust, far away from the public.
    The entry hall on the ground floor (with a museum shop) is the only section of the golden tower visitors will normally see. At this central orientation spot, a large and tasteful winding staircase leads you down (and not up, as in most museums) to the collection.
  • The green room
    South of the golden giant is a green room with large windows, connected to the tower. This is the café, the only part of the museum you can enter without buying a ticket. The café provides a view on the historical train station and passing ships on the canal in between the two buildings. You can also see the Museum Bridge, which itself is also a piece of art (especially when it’s open). All furniture here was designed by artists you can see in the museum. Under the green café is the educational area, with an auditorium and a children’s workshop.
  • The brick pavilion
    When following the underground hall to the west, you will end up in the archaeological part of the museum. The pavilion chronicles the history of Groningen, both the city and the province. This is also why the outside of the pavilion is all red brick, since this is the traditional construction material in the region. It’s a somewhat mysterious section designed by Michele de Lucchi, with objects mostly exposed in daily-life decors.
  • The aluminium pavilion
    French designer Philippe Starck was responsible for this round aluminium pavilion, which contains Far Eastern ceramics, exhibited in areas divided by white, transparent curtains. The idea is great, it looks fantastic, but the ceramics are not my cup of tea.
  • The pointillist pavilions
    The traditional art section forms the east side of the museum. These are actually three pavilions on top of each other. The most striking of the outside is its wonderful pointillist motif, as if Paul Signac himself rose from his grave to design it. At the time the museum had just been built in the early 1990s, this part was what I liked best. Now the deep colours have faded a little bit, which is such a shame. The inside delivers mainly modern art, design and architecture on the first two floors. This part is entirely designed by Mendini. The top floor is a different story. The architects Wolfgang Prix and Helmut Swiczinsky, better known as the duo Coop Himmelb(l)au, have created this pavilion, which surprises because of the deconstructivism. The open architecture consists of steel and glass walls, with split level floors, enabling the visitor to view the art from all possible angles.

Opening hours: Tuesday through Sunday, 10 to 17

Admission: EUR 6.00 adults, EUR 3.00 children (< 16 years)

Information: +3150-3666555 or inside the Netherlands 050-3666555. E-mail info@groninger-museum.nl, very informative web site at http://www.groninger-museum.nl.

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