After building up our holiday days to use them on a long trip, we get the chance to head to different destinations to inspire the senses. And if we are interested in architecture and design, which we here are, the list of options may be slightly shorter but still plenty and varied. To help ease the burden of having too much to choose from, we have selected four cities housing fantastic museums with standout architecture:
Amsterdam – Rijksmuseum
This classical building was designed by the Dutch architect Pierre Cuypers and, despite its external appearance, houses touches of modernity thanks to the renovation project by Sevillian architects Cruz and Ortiz.
Rare for pre-20th-century buildings, the museum lacked essential elements such as a large entrance hall to welcome big crowds, a shop or a café: three mainstays for any modern museum. Moreover, the location of the museum was not ideal either, since it sat on the intersection between old and new Amsterdam with a road literally dissecting the building between its two parts.
Today, the museum is truly worth the trip thanks, in part, to Cruz and Ortiz’s work, whose winning entry to the international design competition led to courtyards being opened up and many rooms being redesigned to adapt them to 21st-century architectural and decorative styles.
Kyoto – Miho Museum
They say that this museum is the masterpiece of Ieoh Ming Pei, an American deemed to be one of the last great exponents of modern architecture—he won the Pritzker in 1983 and designed the Louvre pyramid. Three quarters of the Miho Museum building is underground in order to preserve the environment, and it is bathed in natural light thanks to a large picture window offering views over the surrounding pine and maple landscape.
The main collection of the museum is housed in the north wing with ever-changing exhibitions of Japanese artistic pieces: from the tea ceremony, calligraphy, paintings and masks, to Buddhist statues. The south wing is home to hundreds of pieces dating to the Sasanian, Persian, Egyptian, Roman and Chinese empires.
In other words, the museum focuses fully on culture, traditions and the origins of the Silk Road, all presented with a marvellous mise-en-scène. Visitors get to enjoy total immersion in eastern culture as well as the best from the world of architecture.
Washington D.C. – National Museum of African American History and Culture
The façade of this fantastic American museum is a giant ‘scrim’ that covers the five floors of the building designed by Ghanaian designer David Adjaye. Located on Constitution Avenue in the National Mall of Washington, the museum was opened in 2015 by then-president Barack Obama.
In an interview with the ‘Smithsonian’ magazine, Adjaye stated that ‘when you see this building, the opaque parts look like they’re being levitated above this light space, so you get the sense of an upward mobility in the building’, adding that ‘when you look at the way the circulation works, everything lifts you up into the light’.
London – Design Museum
Using a 1960s-era building as the shell, architect John Pawson—a benchmark for minimalism in architecture—designed a space where the key element is a huge canopy roof and magnificent central atrium, which works as a thoroughfare and confers a dynamic sense to the building.
In his website journal, the architect noted that ‘below the sweeping canopy of its hyperbolic paraboloid roof structure, the epic construction site is reminiscent of an opencast mine’.