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The building

Since its foundation in 1874, Museum De Lakenhal has been housed in the monumental 'Laecken-Halle' from 1640. This is where the world-famous Leiden Cloth is inspected and provided with a lead. In the past centuries, the building has undergone many transformations.

  • 1566 - Out of fear for the iconoclasm the Leiden city council has the altarpieces the Last Judgement by Lucas van Leyden and two triptychs of Cornelis Engebrechtsz. taken from the Leiden Pieterskerk and the Mariënpoel monastery to eventually accommodate them in the City Hall.
  • 1574 - Immediately after Leidens Ontzet (Leiden Liberation) on 3 October, important historical objects from this period, such as emergency coins, medals of honour and stamps, were preserved and shown to interested parties in the Town Hall.
  • May 8, 1639 - The city council of Leiden decided to build an inspection hall for woollen cloth: the Laecken-Halle. Arent van 's-Gravesande (ca. 1610-1662) was commissioned to design a classicist city hall. The hall should reflect the quality and international reputation of the fabrics that made Leiden so rich in the Golden Age. Van 's-Gravesande is one of the most important architects of the Golden Age. He also designed the Marekerk in Leiden.
  • August 8, 1641 - Official opening of the Laecken-Halle.
  • 1795-1820 - Collection of objects from old city institutions like the Schuttersdoelen, the Waag, the Boterhuis and the guild houses are kept in the Leiden city hall.
  • 1820 - Due to the decline of the textile industry, the Laecken-Halle lost its function as hall of inspection for cloth and was taken into use as the Hall of Manufactures and cholera hospital.
  • The municipal council decided to designate 'a part of the Cloth Hall building as a depository or museum for objects of antiquarian or other artistic value'.
  • 1869 - Start of conversion to city museum. City architect J.W. Schaap is commissioned to add a stairwell and to convert the second floor of the Lakenhal into an exhibition space.
  • 1872-1874 - Other rooms in the Lakenhalle are added to the museum.
  • 1872 - The city collection moves from the Town Hall to the Lakenhalle. The canvas The self-sacrifice of Mayor Van der Werf is given a place of honour. The ceiling had to be raised for this enormous painting.
  • 3 October 1872 - On the occasion of the Leidens Ontzet celebrations, the museum was opened to the public for the first time. There was an enormous turnout - over 4,000 visitors.
  • Soon the museum was too small to accommodate the growing collection. The municipal council decided that the first floor of the Lakenhal should also be made available.
  • 1 May 1874 - The whole of the Lakenhalle building was opened as a museum of 'objects of antiquity and history'. Admission was free on Sundays and during the annual commemoration of Leidens Ontzet on 3 October.
  • 1890 - A gift from Daniël Hartevelt (1824-1895) made possible a major renovation, resulting in a new exhibition hall.
  • 20 May 1890 - Festive opening of the new Hartevelt Room, with an exhibition of modern art compiled by a committee including Leiden artists Floris Verster, Theodorus Ouwerkerk and Menso Kamerlingh Onnes.
  • 1893 - The unique collection of sample books, used from 1690 to 1791 in the old Laecken-Halle, moves from the municipal archives to the museum.
  • 1918 - The museum suffers from an urgent lack of space. In May, Mr Pape makes a princely donation in memory of his deceased brother. This makes it possible to realise the desired expansion and almost double the size of the museum.
  • April 5, 1922 - Festive opening of the Pape wing. Not only was there much more exhibition space, but the museum now also had an attic and cellar to store its collection.
  • 2010 - In order to get to know the museum's own DNA, all the depots are emptied. During the exhibition 'Work in Progress', a 65-metre-long blue roller conveyor belt winds through the exhibition hall. On it, hundreds of yellow crates filled with museum objects lie on soft cushions. Museum employees work continuously to map out the collection (22,000 objects), under the eyes of the public.
  • 2016-2019 - The museum is closed due to extensive restoration and expansion. The museum receives a donation of 5 million euros and names the new building the Van Steijn Building.

Restoration and extension

Restoration - The restoration focuses on the 17th century Laecken-Halle and the courtyard. The courtyard, where textile workers used to wait for their fabrics to be inspected, is now a central courtyard. Here, the four parts of the building (the 17th-century Cloth Hall, the 19th-century Art Rooms, the 20th-century Pape Wing and the new 21st-century exhibition halls) are visible and accessible. Traces of almost 375 years of building history will not be erased, but rather shown. This gives each part of the building its own character.

Since the museum's foundation in 1874, many interior elements have been riveted to the building. This is the so-called earth- and nail-proof collection. The whole has a high historical value and this collection therefore occupies an important place in the restoration project.

A monumental staircase was added to the interior in the 19th century. This St. Joris staircase comes from the St. Jorisdoelen, the headquarters of the Leiden militia. In order to give the new rear courtyard as open a character as possible, this staircase including the accompanying 16th-century Gravenramen will be relocated.

Extension - At the rear of the Cloth Hall building, the new Museum De Lakenhal will rise with a new façade on Lammermarktplein. The new building will add a total volume of 2,500 square metres to the museum, comprising logistics, storage, workshops, offices, museum café and museum library, in addition to 450 square metres of exhibition space. The design of this new wing is a contemporary interpretation of the brick architecture of the existing museum complex. Shape and scale are inspired by the historic buildings in the vicinity. For centuries, high and low facades have stood side by side in this part of the city.

Architects - The combination of restoration and expansion requires a diverse team of architects. Responsible for the restoration part is the renowned firm Julian Harrap Architects (JHA) from London. The young, talented Happel Cornelisse Verhoeven Architects (HCV) from Rotterdam are responsible for the expansion. HCVA is headed by Ninke Happel, Floris Cornelisse and Paul Verhoeven. This promising trio works from a traditional, sustainable basis on designs that connect new buildings in a natural and contemporary way to the urban or landscape environment. In 2019, HCVA received the Abe Bonnema Architecture Prize for the restoration and expansion of Museum De Lakenhal, and was named Architect of the Year 2019 by Architectenweb Awards.

Listen more about the creation of Museum De Lakenhal