Dam good on the outside, flotsam on the inside
Jun 5, 2015

The climate is harsh and the countryside barren on the North Sea island of Texel. There once was a time when the islanders made a virtue of this and built their houses from stranded jetsam or used such wood as fuel. And when scouring the beaches, or “jutten” as the old term for this activity that stretches back through the centuries goes, they discovered the one or other real treasure. This was what prompted Delft’s architects firm Mecanoo in 2011 to realize the “Kaap Skil” museum in the pleasant town of Oudeschild in the island’s northeast. Across three floors with a total of 1,200 square meters, the museum displays flotsam from the local mud flats, whisking visitors away on a trip through the island’s history.

The façade symbolizes what is on show inside the museum: in front of the transparent glass façade that brings much daylight into the building is a second curtain wall made of vertical wooden lamellas which once served as a dam wall for the Noordhollandsch-Kanaal. Based in Kleve, the renowned Colt company, specialists in building outfitting, processed the wood, sawed it into shape, and in close collaboration with the architects installed it as a one-off system. The lamellas not only protect the museum from the sun and wind, but also create a rhythmic interplay of light and shadow inside the building, subtly lending the white floors and walls a marvelous immaterial texture. The dark sections in the processed wood arose from its ancient use and give the frontage real charm, bringing past times to life again.

The three large mechanical folding sliding shutters (like the four gabled roofs they have sharp tips on the outside) enable daylight levels on the ground floor to be perfectly regulated and ensure that lighting in the exhibition spaces is dazzle-free. Visitors can thus fully enjoy the archaeological finds and ship models in the glass display cases and immerse themselves in the island’s Golden Age: in the 17th century, Texel was an important port for ships of the West India Company, a Dutch merchant fleet that used it as the base for its expeditions to the Far East.

Ocean waves on the gable roof: The “Kaap Skil Museum on Texel.
Photo © Colt International

Useful flotsam: The vertical lamellas once served as dam walling along the Noord-Holland-Kanaal. Photo © Colt International

Clever ventilation: Colt folding sliding blinds were inserted into the wooden frontage; they are opened and closed mechanically. Photo © Colt International

Bright white glory: The glass face with the curtain wall of lamellas provides for great views inside. Photo © Mecanoo

Simple and beautiful: The facade remains to the tradtion of the isle habitants, who collected flotsam. Photo © Thijs Wolzak

Texel on its head: The “Kaap Skil” cafeteria with a miniature countryside on the ceiling. Photo © Thijs Wolzak

Travel back into the Golden Age: On the lower floor, there’s a reconstruction of the 17th-century anchorage. Photo © Thijs Wolzak