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Extension for Utrecht University Museum completed

The Utrecht University Museum (UMU) is ready for the future, thanks to its new extension designed by De Zwarte Hond. Due to the increasing number of visitors, the museum was bursting at the seams. It was also important to improve the museum’s connection to the street and the botanical gardens behind it. Through a series of strategic interventions, the UMU is now able to deal with increased visitor numbers and has room for sustainable growth in the future.

The UMU manages and provides access to the scientific heritage of Utrecht University. Visitors can experience the history of science, and the museum showcases the importance of science to the general public. Utrecht University is one of the few universities in the Netherlands to have a museum, thereby reducing the distance between the university and society.

An extension that respects the existing design
The original 1996 building, designed by Koen van Velsen, was intended for 25.000 visitors a year. In 2019, the museum reached its physical limits with 75.000 visitors annually. The solution was to expand it and create more facilities and exhibition space.

Our design makes the museum more open, flexible, sustainable and future-proof. The extension, entirely in brick, establishes a new layer of time on the garden side of the building, while retaining the character of the original structure. The pattern of the brickwork refers to the museum’s collection and the 260-year-old ginkgo tree in the botanical gardens.

The main changes to the museum are on the ground floor, where the galleries have been transformed into a larger reception area. In addition, openings in the wooden ‘box’ provide better visibility from the street and botanical gardens.

By reorganizing the entrance area, there is more space and flexibility for supporting facilities such as the reception desk, cloakroom and museum shop. Research workshops and other activities, like interactive lectures, are regularly offered in the museum. This will enable the museum to provide a better experience for the growing number of visitors.

More exhibition space and clearer circulation
Better use of space means more objects can be displayed and more research can take place. A small extension with a lift has been built between the two wings of the museum, using the existing staircase as a central axis. This creates an optimal connection and a clearer museum route between the main volumes.

There is a lot to experience in the museum, with something to see and do everywhere. Visitors can follow a programme, take part in an experiment or become actively involved in the research of Utrecht scientists. In the garden or in the museum café, visitors can have something to eat or drink and recharge their batteries. By offering peace and quiet in strategic places, where busy areas are separated and views show what is to come, the visitor moves from leaning forward to leaning back. This provides the desired level of support and variety.

De Zwarte Hond is responsible for the extension and renovation of the Utrecht University Museum on behalf of Utrecht University.