This unique building on Keizersgracht was built in 1788 for a society of scientists, artists, entrepreneurs and thinkers. Regarded a hotspot for creativity and crossovers during intellectual movements such as “The Enlightenment” —an 18th-century coalition that emphasized reason and science — the building was home to five different departments and facilitated space for music, commerce, literature, physics and drawing.
Reimagining the grand spaces of Amsterdam’s iconic Felix Meritis building, Dutch interior architecture studio i29 adds a contemporary touch to an already vibrant history, creating a colorful revamp that has since transformed the 18th-century style rooms through merging historical allure with modern design sophistication.
Commissioned by investment group Amerborgh, i29 was tasked to further the complete interior redesign of the space by end 2020. Through installations, textile wall coverings, acoustic facilities, and colorful finishes, i29 was able to successfully incorporate a distinct and charismatic design into the Felix Meritis building, which is not only inspired by rich history but contemporary and refreshed with modern interventions.
With a multitude of diverse aesthetics, each space embraces its original function, referencing how the building was divided into distinctive departments and given its own interpretation. Much like in 1788, each space forms a collection of colorful characters in the house of enlightenment.
Completely renovated in collaboration with a large team of specialists and advisers; new installations and acoustic facilities have been carefully inserted within the monumental shell. Overall, all restorations fall within the original building contour, where necessary installations are completely hidden by a new lifted roof, and existing classical environments, new interventions and finishes by i29 in the interior are clearly recognizable as such, bringing the building into the present whilst maintaining its charming authenticity.
Showcasing modern interpretations of style rooms from the 18th century in the form of a restaurant and reception, i29 has successfully maintained all original colours and wall coverings, thanks to its close collaboration with Buro Belen design studio. As an image of a typical Dutch sky lies on full display, as a tactile wall covering in the restaurant, the reception area features an old etching from the original Teekenzaal on the textile walls.
Complemented by a light installation connecting the two rooms to create a grand entrance as a modern “chandelier” from the ceiling, the new and improved Felix Meritis boasts an abundance of fluorescent light through an array of LED signing placed throughout the building. Characterized by the building’s most notable and almost invisible Zuilenzaal, i29 has completely prepared this theatre for the future with the integration of all necessary technology, lighting and installations, without compromising the overwhelmingly significant history.
Famous for acoustic concerts, the Zuilenzaal is finished in original color schemes which has regained its classical appearance. Showcasing large steel chandeliers, acoustic wall cabinets, and flexible wall units for sound absorption and reflection, the Zuilenzaal now welcomes both live acoustic and electronic music performances with enhanced technical, light and sound facilities.
In line with the original philosophy of the Felix Meritis society, the new interior is progressive but made with respect for its history. Representing a new chapter of the cultural house for the curious mind, the new and improved Felix Meritis meets all requirements in terms of appearance, whilst matching the monumental environment of the original building, and marking it as a vibrant culture house for both the young and the old.