Museum W – Maurice Mentjens
The past and the present are melded together in a golden-skinned national heritage-listed building
The City of Weert can now boast a new, a lively icon thanks to the renovation of Weert’s Municipal Museum (Gemeentemuseum Weert) by designer Maurice Mentjens. The museum has been established in Weert’s former city hall since 1982. The project has rendered the monumental historic elements of this prominent national heritage site in the very centre of Weert visible once again and provided the building with a brand-new museum interior. Not only that: Mentjens added an unusual and surprising third façade to the building’s partially new extension that reflects the distinguishing characteristics of our times through its eye-catching matte gold-skinned exterior.
‘Museums are the holy places of our present-day secularized society’, explains the designer, ‘and works of art are the relics of every culture. These are preserved for posterity in museums. On the basis of this premise, the idea of designing the rear façade of the museum to resemble a gold-cladded reliquary, in which the relics of the holy are kept, was conceived.
Just as the sculptures and paintings in reliquaries recount the story of the saints to which they were dedicated, the modern golden façade features two screens on which video installations created by artists or information about current or future exhibitions are projected. The large windows serve as showcases for the works of art, which in turn serve as display windows or visual depositories, to give passers-by a glimpse of the museum’s treasures, as if they were relics in a reliquary.
The façade, which is fitted with golden shutters on all stories, refers not only to the historic façade on the Markt side with its characteristic red shutters flanking the cross-windows, but can also be construed as an enormous Advent calendar: behind every shutter a ‘treasure’ – a relic or work of art – is concealed. The shutters are fixed in place, but the façade – with seams 40 mm wide between the shutters – has been designed in such a way that it appears as if they can all be opened. Through this project Maurice Mentjens, as a designer and a storyteller, has embellished the history of the museum with a new chapter.
Unique showcases and furniture
Mentjens also designed the exhibition space to accommodate the new presentation setup of the permanent collection in the renovated and restored museum building. Some of the existing elements, which had been covered up for decades, such as the wainscoting in the halls and the original oak ceiling in the old Council Hall, were restored to their former glory. The walls of this monumental hall are provided with a textile covering. The venue is currently used for exhibitions and activities that can be attended by the general public, such as lectures and concerts.
Mentjens designed all the furniture, showcases, and suspension systems especially for Museum W, in which as much use as possible was made of sustainable and recyclable materials. He designed an open presentation system for the new floor that was created in the attic with its distinctive arched rafters. Some rooms are also equipped with remarkable drawer units on top of which glass display cases have been placed. Dozens of objects are displayed in the glass-covered drawers to complement the themes of the permanent collection.
Text: Viveka van de Vliet
Photography: Arjen Schmitz