Kaan Architecten

Netherlands American Cemetery Visitor Center

Netherlands American Cemetery Visitor Center
© Simon Menges

Netherlands American Cemetery Visitor Center

KAAN Architecten

PHOTOGRAPHS
Simon Menges

AREA
600 m²

YEAR
2023

LOCATION
Margraten, The Netherlands

CATEGORY
Visitor Center

KAAN Architecten was commissioned by the American Battle Monuments Commission to design a Visitor Center for the only American Cemetery on Dutch soil.

Netherlands American Cemetery Visitor Center
© Simon Menges
Netherlands American Cemetery Visitor Center

Guided by the landscape setting and the monumental atmosphere of the site, the building complements the serenity of this vast memorial.

Nestled in the hills of Limburg’s Heuvelland, near Maastricht, the Netherlands American Cemetery (NEAC) is one of the 26 cemeteries administered by the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC).

Netherlands American Cemetery Visitor Center
© Simon Menges
Netherlands American Cemetery Visitor Center
© Simon Menges

Although mourning wanes over time, there is a renewed need to foster and cultivate awareness of the lasting impact of the Second World War. In today’s world of increasing international conflict and uncertainty, the Visitor Center is an important way to commemorate those buried on the site and to learn about the dynamics that led to the liberation of Europe.

This intervention does not detract from the monumental features but architecturally complements the cemetery landscape with style and dignity.

Netherlands American Cemetery Visitor Center
© Simon Menges
Netherlands American Cemetery Visitor Center
© Simon Menges

NEAC Margraten was originally designed by American landscape architect Michael Rapuano, sculptor Joseph Kiselewski, and architecture firm Coolidge, Sheply, Bulfinch, and Abbott, in collaboration with local architect Alphons Boosten of Maastricht.

KAAN Architecten chose to place the new building at a respectful distance from the monumental ensemble, maintaining the original plan for the site and preserving its peaceful atmosphere.

Netherlands American Cemetery Visitor Center
© Simon Menges
Netherlands American Cemetery Visitor Center
© Simon Menges

The designs of Karres en Brands Landscape Architecture and Urbanism helped to integrate the structure into the landscape.

In commissioning the Visitor Center, the ABMC also required the new building to be an integral part of the monument, referring to the whole ensemble, including the landscaped Burial Field and the Court of Honor within it.

Netherlands American Cemetery Visitor Center
© Simon Menges
Netherlands American Cemetery Visitor Center
© Simon Menges

The Visitor Center, with its entry plaza defined by rows of stone seating, claims its own space in the scenically choreographed setting, yet blends harmoniously into the greater whole.

The plaza and pathway are recessed into the landscape and slope gently downward. The slow descent leads the visitor down to the protective canopy of the Visitor Center, which is made of aesthetic layered concrete.

Netherlands American Cemetery Visitor Center
© Simon Menges
Netherlands American Cemetery Visitor Center
© Simon Menges

Seen from a distance, this concrete fascia appears to float above the ground, denying a sense of scale. Inside, light slits and rounded corners enhance the perception of spaciousness.

Nestled within the frame of the fascia, the building is sunken into the sloping landscape, with the floor resting below ground level.

Netherlands American Cemetery Visitor Center
© Simon Menges
Netherlands American Cemetery Visitor Center
© Simon Menges

Glass walls offer a unique panoramic perspective, allowing visitors to contemplate the typical surrounding topography and scattered trees from a lower vantage point.

At the center of the structure, the walls form a 12 x 12 m square that supports the weight of the fascia. Inside this square is an auditorium, clad in paneling of warm American walnut, as well as service areas and restrooms, while the exterior walls of the square provide exhibition space.

Netherlands American Cemetery Visitor Center
© Simon Menges
Netherlands American Cemetery Visitor Center
© Simon Menges

Featuring original artifacts and personal stories, the exhibition presents the reality and sacrifice of war, encourages reflection on the lessons of the past, and emphasizes the importance of working towards a stable and peaceful future.

The distinguished yet inviting Visitor Center is an architectural enhancement to the Netherlands American Cemetery, offering visitors a special place to learn and reflect, amid the tranquillity of the surrounding landscape.

Netherlands American Cemetery Visitor Center
© Simon Menges


Netherlands American Cemetery Visitor Center
© Simon Menges
Netherlands American Cemetery Visitor Center
© Simon Menges
Netherlands American Cemetery Visitor Center
© Simon Menges


Netherlands American Cemetery Visitor Center
Diagram - floatDetail sectioning element
Netherlands American Cemetery Visitor Center
Diagram - embeded in landscape


Netherlands American Cemetery Visitor Center
Materiality
Netherlands American Cemetery Visitor Center
Materiality


Netherlands American Cemetery Visitor Center
Diagram - embeded in landscape
Netherlands American Cemetery Visitor Center
Diagram - floating element


Netherlands American Cemetery Visitor Center
West facade
Netherlands American Cemetery Visitor Center
East facade


Netherlands American Cemetery Visitor Center
Site diagram
Netherlands American Cemetery Visitor Center
Site plan
Netherlands American Cemetery Visitor Center
Floor plan level 0

Kaan Architecten
T +31 10 2060000
Kaan Architecten
Boompjes 255, 3011 XZ Rotterdam, Netherlands