Renowned for their mastery in architectural metamorphosis, their portfolio boasted stunning achievements such as the awe-inspiring transformation of a historic building in Amsterdam into the City Archives and the recent minimalist makeover of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp, its doors opening to the world in 2022.Guided by the visionary leadership of Dikkie Scipio, the project lead, KAAN Architecten embarked on a quest to discover an architectural solution that would not dim the palace’s splendor but would seamlessly complement its magnificence.
However, the architects faced yet another challenge—the creation of entrances to the new underground reception hall, the Grand Foyer.
The fully restored east wing stood as a testament to the palace’s captivating history, housing a magnificent exhibition chronicling the Dutch royal house’s journey from William III and Mary to the venerable Queen Wilhelmina.
Foremost among the tasks was the removal of around 4,300 square meters of asbestos, as well as the modernization of visitor facilities and technical systems throughout the palace.
Five Dutch architectural firms participated in a public tender for the project, with KAAN Architecten from Rotterdam emerging as the winners.
Het Loo Palace: A Majestic Transformation Underground
Prepare to be awestruck as the Dutch royal palace of Het Loo, lovingly dubbed the “Versailles of the North,” unveils its remarkable metamorphosis after a monumental five-year renovation project worth a staggering €171 million. This extensive restoration journey embarked upon an audacious endeavor—a discreet underground extension spanning a vast expanse of approximately 5,000 square meters.
Originally erected in 1686 as a regal hunting lodge for the illustrious King William III and Queen Mary, Het Loo Palace graced the outskirts of Apeldoorn, nestled within the picturesque heart of the Netherlands. Throughout the ages, it retained its allure as a cherished summer refuge for the House of Orange, enveloping them in serene splendor. Even Queen Wilhelmina sought solace within its regal walls after the tumultuous Second World War, until her final breath in 1962.
Since 1984, Paleis Het Loo has generously opened its doors to the public as an independent national museum, a treasure trove of historical marvels. While its hallowed halls resonate with the echoes of the past, the royal family occasionally breathes life into the space with their presence during official ceremonies. The museum’s noble purpose is to immerse visitors in the opulent tapestry of the royal house’s enthralling history, intertwined with its vast and captivating art collections. Prepare to traverse the corridors of time, where treasures unfold at every turn—behold the grandeur of a majestic staircase, step foot into authentic period rooms adorned with exquisite wall paintings, tapestries, and countless artifacts that paint a vivid portrait of Dutch history.
But the yearning for restoration grew ever stronger within the palace’s timeworn walls. In 2018, a collective call for renewal echoed throughout Het Loo, demanding a thorough rejuvenation to breathe new life into its revered chambers.
Urgent tasks loomed, demanding the removal of a daunting 4,300 square meters of asbestos, the modernization of visitor facilities, and an upgrade of the palace’s technical systems. The challenge lay before them—how to harmoniously merge the old with the new, the historic with the contemporary.
Yet, amidst the restoration fervor, an extraordinary vision took root—a vision of expansion and reimagining the palace’s boundaries. This vision birthed a unique condition for the architects entrusted with the task of transformation: the new spaces must remain veiled underground, hidden from sight, nestled beneath the vast courtyard that embraced the palace’s grandeur.
A select group of architectural firms answered the call, their creative spirits yearning to weave invisible magic into Het Loo’s fabric. Emerging triumphant from the competition, KAAN Architecten, hailing from the vibrant city of Rotterdam, seized the opportunity to leave an indelible mark. Renowned for their mastery in architectural metamorphosis, their portfolio boasted stunning achievements such as the awe-inspiring transformation of a historic building in Amsterdam into the City Archives and the recent minimalist makeover of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp, its doors opening to the world in 2022.
Guided by the visionary leadership of Dikkie Scipio, the project lead, KAAN Architecten embarked on a quest to discover an architectural solution that would not dim the palace’s splendor but would seamlessly complement its magnificence. Their concept: an “invisible intervention” that whispered tales of innovation without disturbing the palace’s majesty.
As the plans unfurled, Michel van Maarseveen, the director of Het Loo, could hardly contain his delight. KAAN Architecten had presented a vision that harmonized precisely with their deepest desires—a design that reverently embraced the historical palace complex in every aspect, breathing life into its ancient walls. The underground extension exuded an aura that effortlessly intertwined with the very essence of the building, a testament to the architectural prowess that KAAN Architecten wielded.
The transformation began at the palace’s historic forecourt, a space once adorned with four resplendent parterres, ornamental gardens that danced in perfect harmony. KAAN Architecten’s ingenious design required the removal of these gardens, making way for an extraordinary expansion lying silently beneath the earth’s surface. What emerged in their place were vast expanses of glass, reminiscent in size to the former parterres. These glass surfaces, lovingly embraced by natural stone edging, allowed the gentle caress of daylight to permeate the newly minted spaces below. As visitors gazed upon the glass, the palace’s regal visage danced upon its reflective surface, magnified by the gentle ripple of water that now delicately veiled it—a nod to the famed fountains and waterworks that Het Loo was renowned for.
The journey of discovery continued, leading visitors closer to the palace’s grandeur. The flight of steps that adorned the front of the majestic corps de logis, the central block of the palace, underwent meticulous refurbishment. Each stone, like a cherished relic of the past, was gingerly removed and then painstakingly replaced to restore its original magnificence. The steps, now resurrected in all their glory, beckoned visitors to ascend, as if inviting them to traverse through time itself.
However, the architects faced yet another challenge—the creation of entrances to the new underground reception hall, the Grand Foyer. The task at hand was delicate—to seamlessly integrate these entrances without disturbing the grand vista of the open square before the palace. Scipio, fueled by her visionary spirit, ingeniously placed them at the ends of the outer east and west wings, delicately crafting corner pavilions that resembled monumental lanterns. These lantern structures greeted visitors, their allure impossible to resist. As guests entered, they converged along a wide lateral corridor, a path imbued with a sense of anticipation and wonder. And then, like unveiling a precious gem, they arrived at the Grand Foyer—a resplendent space cloaked in marble, a sanctuary of elegance and refinement. From this opulent haven, visitors could venture forth into the palace and the meticulously restored east wing, or explore the newly transformed west wing, now housing a captivating “Junior Palace” designed to enchant younger visitors. The Grand Foyer, a symphony of grace, hosted reception desks, a museum shop, and restaurants, while also embracing the realm of temporary exhibitions that would leave visitors breathless.
And so, the transformative tale of Het Loo Palace unfolded, with experts from far and wide gathering to restore its former glory. Walls were lovingly rehung, ceiling paintings delicately brought back to life, 17th-century floors unveiled, tapestries meticulously repaired or rewoven, chandeliers reassembled to cast their enchanting glow, and rooms rearranged with utmost care to showcase the immense royal art collection.
After years of anticipation, the palace swung open its majestic doors in 2022, reclaiming its rightful place as one of the Netherlands’ most significant art collections. The fully restored east wing stood as a testament to the palace’s captivating history, housing a magnificent exhibition chronicling the Dutch royal house’s journey from William III and Mary to the venerable Queen Wilhelmina. The design of this extraordinary exhibition was entrusted to the talented Dutch firm, Kossmanndejong (KDJ), while the restoration work was impeccably executed through a collaborative effort between Van Hoogevest Architecten and Museum Het Loo.
Now, Het Loo Palace stands as a testament to the melding of past and present, where history intertwines with contemporary innovation, and where the echoes of royalty reverberate through its hallowed halls. The completion of KAAN Architecten’s underground extension marks the crowning achievement of this grand transformation—a harmonious marriage of architectural brilliance and a deep reverence for the palace’s storied past.
As visitors step foot into Het Loo Palace today, they embark on a journey that transcends time. They traverse the opulent corridors, their senses awakened by the magnificent artistry that adorns every nook and cranny. The palace’s grand staircase, once ascended by monarchs of old, now carries the weight of centuries of history, inviting guests to tread in the footsteps of royalty. Authentic period rooms, meticulously restored to their former glory, whisper tales of bygone eras, as exquisite wall paintings and tapestries unfold stories of triumph and intrigue.
The palace’s transformation is not merely a physical metamorphosis; it is a testament to the power of preservation and revitalization. It is a celebration of heritage and a dedication to sharing the rich tapestry of Dutch history with the world. Through its open doors, Het Loo Palace extends an invitation—a beckoning call to all who seek to be immersed in the regal splendor and artistic treasures that define this architectural gem.
The invisible underground extension, carefully crafted by KAAN Architecten, serves as a testament to the ingenuity of modern architecture. With its expanses of glass and gentle water veils, it pays homage to the palace’s rich heritage while seamlessly blending with the surrounding landscape. The Grand Foyer, a dazzling marble-clad space, serves as a gateway to a realm of wonder, offering a fusion of history and modernity.
With the completion of this ambitious renovation, Het Loo Palace has not only been restored to its former glory but has also redefined itself as a haven for art enthusiasts, history buffs, and curious minds alike. It stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of the Dutch royal family and their indelible mark on the nation’s cultural heritage.
As the palace continues to unfold its captivating chapters, visitors from around the world will be captivated by its timeless allure. Het Loo Palace, once more resplendent and infused with new life, proudly takes its place among the pantheon of the world’s most distinguished cultural landmarks. It stands as a testament to the power of restoration, a tribute to the past, and a vision of the future—a living testament to the artistry, grandeur, and unwavering spirit of the House of Orange.
Stripping Out Asbestos
By 2018, the 17th-century palace required extensive renovation. Foremost among the tasks was the removal of around 4,300 square meters of asbestos, as well as the modernization of visitor facilities and technical systems throughout the palace.
Seizing the opportunity, museum leaders aimed to expand the complex by creating a new main entrance and additional space for temporary exhibitions. However, they had one crucial condition for the architects in charge of the redesign: the new space had to be entirely underground and hidden from sight, situated beneath the vast courtyard in front of the palace.
Five Dutch architectural firms participated in a public tender for the project, with KAAN Architecten from Rotterdam emerging as the winners. KAAN Architecten gained recognition in 2007 for their remarkable transformation of a historic building in Amsterdam into the City Archives. They further solidified their reputation with the minimalist renovation of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp, completed in 2022.
Dikkie Scipio, the project leader, emphasizes that KAAN Architecten sought an architectural solution that would seamlessly integrate with the palace’s grandeur, describing their concept as an “invisible intervention.”
Michel van Maarseveen, the director of Het Loo, expressed delight with KAAN Architecten’s proposal, stating that it perfectly aligned with their vision while respecting the historical significance of the palace. He remarked that the underground extension exudes an aura that harmonizes with the overall building.
A Transformed Forecourt
Previously, Het Loo’s historic forecourt featured four large ornamental gardens forming an oval shape, flanked by the palace’s side wings. KAAN Architecten’s project involved removing the gardens to make way for an extension several meters below the surface. In their place, expansive glass surfaces of comparable size were installed, adorned with natural stone edging, allowing ample daylight to illuminate the newly created spaces below. The glass surfaces reflect the palace and the 4cm layer of water covering them, reminiscent of the fountains and waterworks that made Het Loo famous.
The flight of steps in front of the palace’s central block, known as the corps de logis, was also refurbished, with each stone meticulously removed and replaced to restore its original grandeur.
Portals to the Underworld
One of the most intriguing architectural challenges faced during the renovation of Het Loo Palace was the delicate task of creating entrances to the newly constructed underground reception hall, the magnificent Grand Foyer. The architects were tasked with a seemingly impossible mission—how to seamlessly integrate these entrances without disrupting the panoramic vista of the open square that stretched before the palace, while maintaining a sense of enchantment and awe.
Ingeniously, Dikkie Scipio, the visionary project leader from KAAN Architecten, devised an extraordinary solution that would transport visitors on a mesmerizing journey. She envisioned corner pavilions that would serve as portals to the underworld, welcoming guests into the hidden depths of the palace’s grandeur. These pavilions, with their captivating presence, took the form of magnificent lanterns, illuminating the path to a world of wonder.
As visitors approached Het Loo Palace, their eyes were drawn to these architectural marvels at the ends of the outer east and west wings. These lantern structures, reminiscent of monumental beacons, exuded a sense of intrigue and anticipation. With each step closer, the allure of the portals grew stronger, beckoning explorers to venture forth and unlock the secrets that lay within.
Crossing the threshold of these lantern structures, visitors found themselves enveloped in a world of architectural splendor. The spacious lateral corridor that awaited them was a conduit of anticipation, with whispers of the palace’s majestic history floating through the air. It was a passageway that seemed to transcend time, bridging the gap between the old and the new, the tangible and the ethereal.
With each stride along the corridor, visitors were drawn closer to the heart of the palace’s transformation. And then, like unveiling a hidden treasure, they arrived at the Grand Foyer—a sight that left them breathless. This resplendent space, bathed in opulent marble and infused with an air of regality, stood as the culmination of the architectural journey. It was a space where past and present converged, where the spirit of the palace’s illustrious history mingled with the contemporary essence of the renovation.
The Grand Foyer served as a gateway to a multitude of experiences that awaited within Het Loo Palace. Here, reception desks welcomed guests with warmth and hospitality, guiding them on their explorations. A museum shop offered an array of treasures, allowing visitors to take home a piece of the palace’s enchantment. And for those in need of sustenance, restaurants provided a sanctuary where culinary delights could be savored amidst the ambiance of royalty.
Beyond the Grand Foyer, a realm of discovery awaited. The palace itself, meticulously restored to its former glory, stood as a testament to the grandeur of Dutch history. The renovated east wing housed a magnificent exhibition, a captivating journey through the annals of the Dutch royal house, from the reign of William III and Mary to the reign of the venerable Queen Wilhelmina. And in the transformed west wing, a “Junior Palace” beckoned younger visitors, offering an immersive and educational experience tailored to their youthful curiosity.
The portals to the underworld had succeeded in their mission—they seamlessly integrated with the palace’s grand architecture, while providing a mesmerizing entryway into the hidden wonders below. Visitors emerged from these portals transformed, their imaginations ignited, and their spirits awakened to the splendor that lay before them.
As the final brushstrokes were applied to the remarkable renovation of Het Loo Palace, it became clear that the portals to the underworld were not mere entrances, but gateways to a world of enchantment, where the past and the present converged in perfect harmony. They embodied the spirit of discovery, inviting visitors to embark on a transformative journey through time and immerse themselves in the majesty of Dutch royalty.