Museum + Square

Artisplein refurbishment, ARTIS Amsterdam

With the renovation of ARTIS’s Groote Museum (grand museum), an adjustment of the Artisplein was necessary. The layout of the square, designed seven years before by fellow landscape architect Michael van Gessel, remains the same but we have expanded it with an extra entrance, adapted it to its new functions and made it much greener.



The Artisplein was designed in 2014 by landscape architect Michael van Gessel, who was a permanent advisor to ARTIS. In 2015, the square design with the characteristic brick 'carpet' was awarded the public prize of the Amsterdam Architecture Prize (AAP). What is special is that the square has been made publicly accessible: it lies outside the enclosure of the zoo. The demolition of the Geological Museum and the Flamingo Conservatory created a direct connection between the city and ARTIS. Everyone is now welcome to relax on the Artisplein with a free view of the flamingos in the Flamingo Pond and the spoonbills in the aviary of the Hollandse Polder, located on the north side of the square, with a water element in front of it. In addition to the 'carpet' of bricks, striking elements in the design are also the use of plants in pots and a brick 'runner' as the entrance to ARTIS Museum Micropia. A second carpet has now been designed in the same 'language', leading the visitor to the new entrance of the Groote Museum.

Nature Artis Magistra's The Groote Museum in the 19th century with a green square


The Groote Museum is located on the south side of the square. The founders of ARTIS and a group of passionate members, the Royal Zoological Society Natura Artis Magistra, ensured that the Groote Museum was created between 1852 and 1855 as a meeting place for the members. It was the first museum building with an exhibition function in the Netherlands in the 19th century. It played a major social and cultural role in Amsterdam in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The monumental building will be restored and will house a museum about the relationship between man and nature. In addition, there will be spaces that can be rented by companies for events and a catering point.

The Artisplein with the Dutch Garden as a separation between public and private, a design by Michael van Gessel
The Groote Museum during the restauration (© ARTIS)




The square and the building will connect seamlessly. The new museum entrance has been fit into the 'language' of the old plan, comparable to how it was previously designed by Van Gessel at the nearby Micropia museum. The Artisplein will be given a new entrance, which will better anchor it in the city. In addition, some minor problems are remedied by replacing some trees with new ones that create reduced root pressure and the growing conditions of the trees are improved. The square will also be greener with climbing plants against the facade and plant borders along the Plantage Middenlaan.


H+N+S delivered the new masterplan for ARTIS in 2020. This plan forms the basis for further work on the park and thus also the spatial framework for Artisplein. In addition, a start was made with historical research and an extensive analysis of Michael van Gessel's old plan. Based on this and on the program of requirements of ARTIS, we worked out the plan in a number of rounds into a design plan.

Section of the sketch design of Plantage Middenlaan, Artisplein and Papegaaienlaan



The Groote Museum is the first, most impressive Artis building and is placed on the oldest part of the Artis site: the Middenhof estate, which was purchased in 1838 by founders Westerman, Werlemann and Wijsmuller. It is therefore sacred ground for ARTIS and deserves a very careful plan. At the time, the park and buildings were designed in conjunction with each other and with great awareness of quality. This also forms the basis for our new plan. After the restoration, the rooms on the ground floor will once again fulfill their function as meeting places.


With the new use of the Groote Museum, the public is welcome once again and the restored historic halls can be admired again as well. Due to its location on the publicly accessible Artisplein and its broadened function as a reception area for events, the Groote Museum will once again have the meeting function it used to have.

The side of the Artisplein next to the Groote Museum will be arranged according to the new design, with lighting of the monumental building, the new entrance and the greening of the 'roundabout'.

Green border and statues of a lion and a tiger with prey around 1900 on the Plantage Middenlaan (© Stadsarchief, Amsterdam)


A temporary refurbishment has been opted for on the side of the Plantage Middenlaan. On the one hand due to limited financial resources (due to the COVID crisis) and on the other hand since there are all kinds of interfaces with the environment here. Adjusting the monumental main entrance according to the design requires more time and consultation with the municipality of Amsterdam. In the temporary situation, however, the Groote Museum will regain the garden strip along Plantage Middenlaan.


At the entrance of the Groote Museum on the street side, there were originally two large stone statues of a lion and a tiger with prey, sculpted by J.J.F. Verdonck, son-in-law of founder Westerman. However, the statues on Middenlaan fell into disrepair and were replaced in 1938 by two limestone statues by Artis artist Jaap Kaas, also a lion and a tiger with prey. They were a gift from the staff on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Amsterdam Zoo. The statues are placed back at the entrance.


The flamingo pond is part of a large pond, where the Nieuwe Prinsengracht ran until the end of the 19th century. This pond narrows at two points, where two newly renovated cast iron bridges cross the water.

The visitor has an unobstructed view of the pond from the Plantage Middenlaan and the platform on the Artisplein. On the west bank of the pond new planting will be placed, which also refers to the planting that was found after construction at the end of the 19th century. In this way, the inner world is restored with special edges and sight lines.

In addition, the Artisplein will drain into the flamingo pond. As a result, less water is needed for watering the border plants. Moreover, the extra incoming rainwater improves the water quality of the flamingo pond.


In the future, the main entrance will be set up according to the design as the final situation, when the municipality starts working on the Plantage Middenlaan (which will play a less important role in the mobility policy). In the coming period, the growth conditions for the monumental trees on Artisplein will be improved.