Emerging like some exotic alien plant out of the gray waters of the Verbindingskanaal, the museum added a surprising touch to this sober northern city when it opened in 1994. Italian architect Alessandro Mendini dreamed up a structure as quirky and varied as the contents. Playful, garish, disjointed, all jutting beams and cantilevered panels, each of the four pavilions has a different style, thanks to designers as varied as Philippe Starck, Michele de Lucchi, and Vienna bureau Coop Himmelbau. One appears to be the victim of an exploded paint box, and another, as the locals say, of a plane crash. These surround a golden tower in which a spiral staircase leads upward, its walls and balustrade a mosaic of small, varicolored tiles. After all this, you might find it hard to focus your attention on the collection. Each pavilion pursues a different theme: local archaeological finds and the history of the city and province; Eastern ceramics; decorative arts; and paintings -- including works from the Expressionists of the Groningen school and a watercolor by Vincent van Gogh, Drawbridge in Nieuw-Amsterdam (1883) -- prints, and sculpture from the 16th century to the present. A visit here should last 2 hours and 5 minutes: 2 hours for looking around, and 5 minutes for gazing slack-jawed in front of the building before you enter.
- © Frommer's 2013
- Recommended 2010