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Biesbosch MuseumEiland

After an extensive renovation that lasted nine months, The Biesbosch MuseumEiland in the netherlands has reopened to the public. The existing museum building be expanded with 1000m2 of exhibition space, restaurant, offices and a visitor center. The island is designed as sweetwater tidal park with a unique water playground. The museum’s garden roofs are embedded into the environment providing great views over the surroundings.

Biesbosch-MuseumEiland-By-Studio-Marco-Vermeulen-02-Ronald-Tilleman-759x506 Biesbosch MuseumEiland / Studio Marco Vermeulen

© Ronald Tilleman

The Biesbosch and the local environment play an important part of the Netherland’s cultural history. The Biesbosch arose after the St. Elisabeth Flood of 1421 and the museum demonstrates how early civilisations worked to cultivate the land. Since the mid-1900s, this culture disappeared and nature was given free reign over the wetlands. In building the museum, tidal flows were altered in order to allow the Noordwaard wetlands to drain free and allow nature to return to the National Park.

Biesbosch-MuseumEiland-By-Studio-Marco-Vermeulen-03-Ronald-Tilleman-759x506 Biesbosch MuseumEiland / Studio Marco Vermeulen

© Ronald Tilleman

The freshwater area in the middle of the Biesbosch makes this location truly unique with the museum situated on the edge of the Island. The island’s wetlands are accessible by electric boat trips from the museum or on-foot with hiking routes navigating through the natural environment.

Biesbosch-MuseumEiland-By-Studio-Marco-Vermeulen-04-Ronald-Tilleman-759x506 Biesbosch MuseumEiland / Studio Marco Vermeulen

© Ronald Tilleman

“Since the opening the Biesboschmuseum has already welcomed 30,000 visitors in three months. Before the transformation there were 30,000 per year! Next winter the water playground and freshwater tidal park will be realized on the museum island. We are very proud!” – Studio Marco Vermeulen

Biesbosch-MuseumEiland-By-Studio-Marco-Vermeulen-06-Ronald-Tilleman-759x506 Biesbosch MuseumEiland / Studio Marco Vermeulen

© Ronald Tilleman

Studio Marco Vermeulen:

After an eight-month renovation, the Biesbosch Museum reopened to the public this summer. The museum has been completely transformed and extended with a new wing that opens to its beautiful surroundings and houses a restaurant and temporary exhibition space for contemporary art. The permanent exhibition that explains the historical development of the region has also been totally revamped. A large water model of the Biesbosch and a freshwater tidal park are also planned on the Museum Island. Building, interior, water model and freshwater tidal park were designed by Studio Marco Vermeulen, and the exhibition was designed by Studio Joyce Langezaal.

Biesbosch-MuseumEiland-By-Studio-Marco-Vermeulen-07-Ronald-Tilleman-759x508 Biesbosch MuseumEiland / Studio Marco Vermeulen

© Ronald Tilleman

Reason for redevelopment:

Water safety was the key reason for the development of the Biesbosch Museum Island. As part of a national water safety programme, the 4450-hectare Noordwaard polder has been turned into a water-retention area. Outlets on either side of the Biesbosch Museum were dug to create a new island.

For most visitors, the Biesbosch Museum is the starting point for exploring the Biesbosch National Park. The museum, however, was outdated and not equipped to accommodate the growing visitor numbers. A lack of adequate catering facilities was particularly urgent. Moreover, the presentation of the collection needed an overhaul. In 2012, some 35,000 people visited the museum, while in the first three months since the reopening, no fewer than 30,000 people visited the complex!

Biesbosch-MuseumEiland-By-Studio-Marco-Vermeulen-09-Ronald-Tilleman-759x552 Biesbosch MuseumEiland / Studio Marco Vermeulen

© Ronald Tilleman

Museum Building:

To avoid any unnecessary waste of material or energy, the hexagonal structure of the original Biesbosch Museum pavilions has been retained, and a new 1000 m2 wing was added on the south-western side of the building. Featuring extensive areas of fenestration, the wing opens to the museum garden on the island. The extension houses an organic restaurant that offers views of the adjacent water and landscape, and space for temporary exhibitions.

The existing building houses the permanent exhibition, library, multipurpose theatre, entrance area with reception and museum shop. Visitors can obtain tourist information about the Biesbosch National Park and buy tickets for the museum and electric boats. The addition of large dormers on the roof created space for the museum’s offices, the Dutch Forestry Commission and the Park Board.

The old and new sections of the museum are surrounded by earthworks and covered with a roof of grass and herbs. The roof adds ecological value, creating a sculptural object that reads as land art and, at the same time, manifests itself in the surrounding landscape. A fold in the roof gives way to an adventurous mountain trail and a lookout post.

Biesbosch-MuseumEiland-By-Studio-Marco-Vermeulen-11-Ronald-Tilleman-759x506 Biesbosch MuseumEiland / Studio Marco Vermeulen

© Ronald Tilleman


The new permanent exhibition offers a rich overview of the history of the Biesbosch, the culture and the collection of the museum. The unique story of the Biesbosch is displayed in seven pavilions, covering its history from the Elizabeth Flood of 1421 to its current status as a recreational area. The residents, economy, crafts and nature are displayed in multimedia spaces that stimulate all senses. Original film material and photographs, interviews and tools present a personal and vivid account of the area and its residents.

Biesbosch-MuseumEiland-By-Studio-Marco-Vermeulen-13-Ronald-Tilleman-759x506 Biesbosch MuseumEiland / Studio Marco Vermeulen

© Ronald Tilleman


Both the new wing and existing volume are designed to minimize energy consumption. The glass front is fitted with state-of-the-art heat-resistant glass that eliminates the need for blinds. The earthworks on the north-western side and the green roof serve as additional insulation and a heat buffer. On cold days, a biomass stove maintains the building at the right temperature through floor heating. On warm days, water from the river flows through the same piping to cool the building.

Biesbosch-MuseumEiland-By-Studio-Marco-Vermeulen-15-Ronald-Tilleman-759x506 Biesbosch MuseumEiland / Studio Marco Vermeulen

© Ronald Tilleman

Willow Filter:

Sanitary wastewater is purified through a willow filter: the first in the Netherlands and an acknowledgement of the wicker culture of the Biesbosch. Willows absorb the wastewater and the substances it contains, among them nitrogen and phosphate. These substances act as nutrients and help the willow to grow. The purified water is discharged into the adjacent wetland area and flows from there into the river. Once the willows are sawn and dried, the wood can be used as fuel in the biomass stove in the museum or for other purposes.

Biesbosch-MuseumEiland-By-Studio-Marco-Vermeulen-16-Ronald-Tilleman-759x525 Biesbosch MuseumEiland / Studio Marco Vermeulen

© Ronald Tilleman

Specific to the Biesbosch:

The museum uses many resources available in the area, not only for its energy supply and water treatment, but also for the menu in the microbrew restaurant. Moreover, the museum can count on the commitment of dozens of volunteers, many of whom have worked in the Biesbosch in the past. Even most of the contractors and construction workers involved in the redevelopment come from the immediate area.

The Biesbosch has a rich history in harvesting and processing natural materials and is bio-based avant la lettre. The museum therefore provides space for art, preferably made of natural materials from the Biesbosch itself, in the new wing and on the island.

Midway through the last century, the impressive sturgeon and salmon disappeared from the waters of the Biesbosch. With the opening of the Haringvliet locks and the cleaner water in the river, the likelihood of a return of these distinctive species has increased. The indoor pond at the restaurant hints at the return of the sturgeon.

Biesbosch-MuseumEiland-By-Studio-Marco-Vermeulen-21-Ronald-Tilleman-759x506 Biesbosch MuseumEiland / Studio Marco Vermeulen

© Ronald Tilleman

Freshwater Tidal Park:

The Museum Island, which will be realized in the spring of 2016, is a freshwater tidal park on the island that receives river water through a newly dug creek. The tides and seasonal variations in water levels can be clearly experienced thanks to the gentle slope of the banks along the creek. The slopes also create a rich diversity of flora and fauna, so that every visit to the island will be different. A meandering path provides access to the island, which continuously changes in appearance because of the changing water levels.

Biesbosch-MuseumEiland-By-Studio-Marco-Vermeulen-22-Ronald-Tilleman-759x506 Biesbosch MuseumEiland / Studio Marco Vermeulen

© Ronald Tilleman

Biesbosch-MuseumEiland-By-Studio-Marco-Vermeulen-23-Ronald-Tilleman-759x506 Biesbosch MuseumEiland / Studio Marco Vermeulen

© Ronald Tilleman

Biesbosch Experience:

The ‘Biesbosch Experience’ will be realized on the Museum Island in the spring of 2016. This scale model of the Biesbosch, with polders, dikes and streams, explains the water management function and importance of the area when water levels are high. Within a half-hour cycle, the water changes from ‘extremely low’ to ‘extremely high’. Children and adults are able to alter the course of the water by operating various kinds of locks.

Biesbosch-MuseumEiland-By-Studio-Marco-Vermeulen-26-Ronald-Tilleman-759x506 Biesbosch MuseumEiland / Studio Marco Vermeulen

© Ronald Tilleman

De Pannekoek Open-Air Museum:

The open-air museum on the other side of the river features a wood of willows called a ‘griend’ where visitors can step back in time. Visitors can also see a duck decoy, a hut made of willows and reeds, and a beaver lodge.

Biesbosch-MuseumEiland-By-Studio-Marco-Vermeulen-31-Ronald-Tilleman-759x570 Biesbosch MuseumEiland / Studio Marco Vermeulen

© Ronald Tilleman

Project Data:

Project name: Biesbosch MuseumEiland
Location: De Hilweg 2, 4251 MT Werkendam, Netherlands
Coordinates: 51.765375, 4.771586
Type: Museum, Visitor center
Project Area: 1,300 sqm
Surface: 2,336 sqm
Completion Date/Year: 2015
Visit Biesbosch MuseumEiland’s website: here


  • 2016 – Architizer A+ Awards – Typology Categories: Cultural > Museum – Jury Winner

The people:

Client / Owner / Developer: Biesbosch Museum
Architects: Studio Marco Vermeulen – Maaskade 85, 3071 NE Rotterdam, Netherlands
Interior Designer: Verberne, Asten and Xylos, Rotterdam
Project Team:

  • Marco Vermeulen, Joyce Langezaal, Joost van der Waal, Bram Willemse, Andrés Cubillo Ramiro, Piotr Szczesniak, Emma Westerduin


  • Project Management and Engineering Advice: Edion Bouw en Management, Driebergen
  • Structure: Raadgevend Ingenieursburo van Nunen, Rosmalen and W5A Structures, Waalre


  • Installations: Overdevest Adviseurs, Den Haag
  • Building Physics and Fire Prevention: moBius Consult, Driebergen
  • Advice on facilities for people with disabilities: Zet


  • Building Contractor: Staton Bouw, Werkendam
  • Electrical Contractor: Drabbe, Werkendam
  • Climate System Contractor: WVI, Werkendam
  • Green Roof and Outdoor Space Contractor: Van Helvoirt, Berkel-Enschot

Text Description: © Courtesy of Studio Marco Vermeulen
Images: © Studio Marco Vermeulen, Ronald Tilleman


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