The Friesland Collections Centre – or “Kolleksjesintrum Fryslân” – houses the collections of five regional museums under one roof: the Friesland Museum; Tresoar (Friesian History and Literature Centre); Friesland Museum of Natural History; Friesian Maritime Museum; and Frysk Lânbou Museum (Friesian Agricultural Museum).

In common with many other museums around the world, the five institutions with materials in the Friesland Collections Centre have in the past had to deal with high storage costs and inefficient logistics, because their collections were spread across a number of different locations. A central storage facility in a new building, developed specifically to meet sustainability targets, offered a clever, low-impact solution.

Top tips to maximise space and minimise energy costs:

We caught up with Jurriaan van Stigt from Dutch Design agency LEVS architecten to discuss the process and inspiration behind the newly constructed Friesland Collections Centre.

As Jurriaan points out, the biggest challenge for LEVS was to create a building with minimal operating costs, specifically with very low energy consumption.

Here are Jurriaan’s top tips to maximise space and minimise energy costs: 

1. Work out exactly what storage you require for your collection

Decide what needs to be stored, how it needs to be stored, which storage solutions are suitable and what items can be stored together. First estimates indicated we would need at least 10,000m² over a four-storey building with a volume of 45,000m³. Previously the five museums had stored their collections at 30 different locations. Ten of these locations were visited just a handful of times each year, which resulted in significant investment of time travelling between sites, and an equivalent potential saving.

Along with the project team we started the task of managing a decrease of space, because a smaller repository equals lower costs. Storage solutions played a significant role in the optimisation of space. We visited different existing museum repositories and saw that above the storage racks there was often some unused space. The available racks were commonly produced in a maximum height of 3m. Set in a space with a high ceiling, this setup resulted in unused capacity in the building. The project team was very excited about Bruynzeel’s Double Decker system, specifically its potential to reach a height of about 6m. For the Friesland Collections Centre, we were able to reduce the initial space estimate of 45,000m³ by 65%, through the introduction of Bruynzeel’s Double Decker solution.

Other advantages of the Double Decker were the low-energy-use motors and the controlled movement of each individual rack when opening an aisle. The collections managers were concerned about the movement at first, as they were worried about the potential risks to – for example – the pottery collections. However, a visit to an existing double decker museum installation convinced them that this solution would be safe.

2. Determine the correct climactic conditions for the stores

With the help of external advisers, we investigated what options were available to create the right climactic conditions while avoiding high running costs to keep conditions stable . We looked to the Danish low energy storage concepts for inspiration, which have been used in a large number of projects including repositories at Ribe, Velje and Arnamagneum Copenhagen.

Due to the differing climates in Denmark and the Netherlands, we had to check carefully to ascertain what ideas would work and what ideas weren’t suitable.

The team concluded that a gradual change of climate throughout the year would be acceptable, while a sudden change of temperature and humidity could cause damage to the collections. Provided the local conditions met this specification, we felt confident that a high R-value of thermal insulation throughout the building and purposely uninsulated concrete floor, acting as a geothermal accumulator, would provide the right solution.

Another aim was to find materials that chimed with the idea of a reduction in artificial climate control. But the team needed to consider the deadline as well. The plan was to create the new repository within 18 months. So certain materials, like limestone, that we had initially selected due to their specific sustainability properties, were ultimately rejected due to the tight timeframe, which ruled them out as we could not source them quickly enough. The schedule was so tight that Bruynzeel’s installation crew where installing the storage systems while other construction crews were still finishing their work on the building.

3. Design your building to be beautiful

Once all the research had been conducted into the feasibility of materials and sustainability, we could take a closer look at the design for the building. During our tours of existing repositories, we found that many had been designed as functional boxes. We wanted to do things differently. Our philosophy is that if a building is beautiful, the stakeholders and collections managers are better off.

The building is clad in rust-coloured aluminium. Slender ribs on the exterior create niches where climbing plants can flourish, blurring the boundaries between the building and the surrounding landscape. The plants are intended to connect the building with nature and also provide a cooling effect on warm days. The landscaping around the building has been kept deliberately natural. On a recent visit we saw a heron waiting patiently by a water-filled ditch for his next meal just a few metres from the repository itself – a silent witness that the building really does integrate into its natural environment.

The so called ‘Fryske Model’ has become a touchstone for best practice across the globe. When Bruynzeel attended the AAM exhibition in 2017, the project was already well known to local museum curators and managers. It is a very special project, one that all those who took part in its creation are proud to put their name to – Jurriaan van Stigt included.

Have a look at the interior and read more about this sustainable collections centre.