Kunsthal Gallery, Amsterdam: Continuous Circuit

Published: 2021-09-29 21:15:10
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Category: Personal Experience, National Parks

Type of paper: Essay

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Kunsthal is a temporary exhibition gallery. It was designed by Rem Koolhaas, and built in 1987 to 1992. It is situated in a quiet area of a park called Museumpark. It is on the edge of the Museumpark and the Westzeedijk. The building consists of a ramp that runs through it which connects the Museumpark with Westzeedijk, the Hoboken and the Park. The Kunsthal building is also a traffic intersection and a meeting place for numerous public flows. The materials used for Kunsthal were not only expensive materials, such as marble and parquet, but there were also cheap materials used, such as corrugated plastic, bare concreate, galvanized steel gratings and rough tree trunks, giving each exhibition space its own character and atmosphere. The building has no clear front or back, every façade is different. The building itself is a square, but a fragmented square. The ramp is a void that allows one to pass directly through the building without entering it, instead of enfolding the building. Furthermore, the vehicular street cut the building apart at grade; it eats away the formal geometry and breaks the ideal form of the square. On the interior, the spiral ramps continuously break the fragmented square, sending the people into volumes of space before sucking them again into another sequence. Koolhaas’s design for the ramp is Rem Koolhaas’ purpose to create this building was for it to be a symbol of culture, and for Kunsthal to be a continuous circuit that not only connects the spaces but the people, to the building and the activities that is happening on the interior. Similarly, he connects the natural elements to the people by continuing the landscape in the roof garden. He achieved his purpose when he answered his question: “How do you imagine spiral in four separated squares?”
He achieved this by creating a continuous spiraling path that connects the spaces through a series of ramps and interchanges that happen both above and below ground. The spaces are open to the public, whether to view the exhibitions or not. As the public utilize the ramp to get form one point to the other, they are forced to connect with the building. They have to go through it, feel its entirety and observe the spaces because of its’ transparency. The pedestrian path is dominating, while the vehicular path is subtle. The building now houses a café, shop and ticket office. One can rent the auditorium as a location for events. The former shop is now an educational area where families and children can engage in hands on activities every day. So Kunsthal connects everyone by bringing them together. It provides for the neighborhood, it is a place of gathering for the neighborhood.There’s a flow as you move through the building, and a sense of ___. As a pedestrian, you encounter the ramp that starts at the park and connects to the building across the avenue; it is difficult to define if you are inside or outside. The ramp creates a public dimension with social dimensions within it. You see and hear the chatter of others sharing the ramp with you. The ramp is also the link between the interior and exterior of the gallery. So, you don’t need to step inside the building to view the art, you are already part of it, and at the same time connected to the outside. Then you come across the ramp steps which connects you to the terrace or roof garden, and that ramps leads in another direction, which gives a feel of unrest and instability. At that point, everything is quiet and still, the chatter is just background noise, and you are enjoying the natural view of the park.
If you are traveling by car, the street to vehicle traffic is perpendicular to the building and the square pit producing ramps. You encounter this floating square, and feel its transparence and openness. Its appearance from the vehicle street is calm and lucid. For a split moment you are engulfed by the building, and connected to it then you are out in the open again, continuing your journey.
Those experiences also have to do with time, the play with time. A spiral in four separate squares can only be a fragmented spiral in four disjunctive times. As you are in one of those spaces you are creating intimate, personal and social relationships. You are in a moment, in a different time. Halfway down the ramp, you encounter the auditorium, where it slopes in the opposite direction, depending on the exhibition. The curtains can be drawn, blocking daylight, and experience the moment of watching through the projection screen. You keep on walking down, and you turn to encounter a lower hall that faces the park. To the right, there’s a slim opening that opens to a narrow gallery, and you can look, and see the circulation of the people above you, and relive the ramp that you used to enter. You continue your walk up and there’s a glass of wall that separates you from the people outside. Every part of your path, there’s a connection to something, whether it’s human connection or connection to the space itself. At the top of that hall, you turn left, and you encounter another hall that is bright and with no columns, and you exit under a balcony. Once there, you can turn and take the third ramp, and emerge on the roof, introducing the roof garden. You can look down, enjoy the scenery, the landscape, and spiral back down to the beginning. Exit, take a different path and do it again. Keep going. The building wants you to, it demands it.
Each façade of the building is completely different. They each use different materials, and different in sensibility. So, you experience the place “in as many dimensions as possible, from all four façades if you truly want the experience and take it all in. As you can see there is a sequence of continuity to all of it. You come from the outside world, then you are in between the outside world and the building space, then you go the narrow halls where you are caged in, but still are connected to the entry ramp and the outside world, because of the glass wall. Once you keep going you are now in a larger room, free of the tightness of the halls. While you are in the room, you are back to your connection to either the park or the street across because of the buildings’ outer shell is transparent. There’s a feeling of openness, exposure, and weightlessness, since the skin is see-through, so someone outside can see inside either from the façades looking in the auditorium, restaurant, and exhibition room above, or from the exterior ramps, where someone can see you and you can see them. The programs are what creates the spaces for conversations of different sorts. There are macro spaces, that are the big four spaces, which include the auditorium, the three exhibition rooms, and the restaurant below the slope seats of the auditorium. Micro spaces are also included, which are the long halls, and the in between which are the ramps that slopes in different directions. The narrow halls are also exhibition spaces, that creates conversations between a few people, it makes them feel large and important. And at the exhibition rooms the conversations are between many people or just a few, but those rooms are so large that they make the people feel small and the exhibitions large, and significant.
Those spaces are created for large crowds, while the narrow halls are created for small groups, and individuals. Their movement are defined by the columns in some of those spaces. The restaurant space continues to the exterior, with the separation of the glass wall, yet it is connected, showing the blur between the private space of the interior to the public space of the exterior. By extending the restaurant space to the exterior, the spaces are intertwined. Each space can be used independently or complimentary. Each maintain its identity, they all overlap each other in a determinedly anti-hierarchical mixture.
The circulation through the building, whether vehicular or pedestrian, creates framed views. Such as, on the ramp, your view is framed of the five tall columns, that are references to the trees, and of the people disappearing and appearing along those columns. In the vehicular path, your view of the overhang that shows the people inside the building while also getting a view of what’s at the end of the path. You also get a double framed view, of while being inside the auditorium and of the stair/ramped path that leads to the roof.
All in all, Koolhaas created an architecture that is dominated by the people who uses it. He credited spaces of interaction. He created a continuous circuit, that not only connects his architecture to the people, but connects the outside world to the people and the people to each other, by having part of the building skin transparent. Each façade is unique giving the viewer different feels as they stroll about and explore the building. At the end of the day the building is a result of its’ circulation.

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