The monumental sixteenth-century ‘Spanish Government’, which is located at the Vrijthof square (temporary address of Charles V, King of Spain and Duke of Brabant), and the eighteenth-century residence at Papenstraat, along with a new construction, jointly make up Museum aan het Vrijthof. The large-scale alterations in 2011-2012, led by Rob Brouwers (SATIJNPlus Architecten), tripled the museum’s surface area and created space for the Museum Shop and the attractive Grand Café Maastricht Soiron. The combination of two listed monuments by means of a new construction has led to a spectacular synergy between medieval and contemporary architecture.
The transparent air cushion roof that cover the large courtyard are remarkably striking. The inflatable roof, consisting of two layers of synthetic fibre and a lightweight steel construction, allows much daylight to pass through, creating an atmosphere of being outside. The construction is self-supporting and does not affect the two monuments.
An open connection between both monuments was created on the first floor. The visitor crosses the courtyard by way of two translucent glass footbridges and the sparkling glass ‘jewel box on stiletto heels’ between both buildings. The glass box accommodates eighteenth-century wainscoting, which is the basis of this room in Regency style.
The museum has not merely undergone a metamorphosis on the inside; the façade was altered as well. A large gateway was installed in the face of the building, and consequently makes up the museum’s entrance. Similar to the original carriage porch, which lasted up to the late eighteenth-century, this new gate leads the visitor directly to the building’s centre: the covered courtyard. Artist Appie Drielsma added two bronze reliefs to the gateway, which makes a welcoming gesture to the Vrijthof square and the city of Maastricht.
The main focus of Museum aan het Vrijthof is ‘500 Years Made in Maastricht’; 500 years of creativity and enterprise. By means of authentic stories and tangible memories from five centuries of arts and crafts and manufacturing industry, the history of Maastricht’s cultural identity is presented and visualised. The witnesses’ views on the events and conditions of their time express the spirit of the age and allow the visitor to reflect upon history. The visitor starts his journey through 500 Years Made in Maastricht in the recent past. He is taken from room to room through time in a reversed chronology, all-in line with the buildings’ history. Each guest will be given an RFID chip (Radio Frequency Identification). This chip traces the exact position of the visitor and can be tuned to the language of preference. The building will respond to the visitor’s presence, without any action required by the visitor. This technique allows you to see and hear bygone times in a subtle and invisible way.