Case Study —

NAi Treasury — let me in on a secret.

Can a museum's artifacts be staged as objects of desire?


What is NAi Treasury?

The Netherlands Architecture Institute's Treasury (in Dutch 'Schatkamer') is a 250 square meter exhibition space displaying 100 of the most prized objects from its extensive architectural archive. It was designed to make architectural artifacts attractive to an audience foreign to the field.

Key Project Goals

Make architectural artifacts attractive to a dual audience of architects and visitors foreign to the field.

Context & Role

I worked on this project as a designer at the Office for Metropolitan Architecture in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

From concept development to construction, I worked under the direction of Saskia Simon, playing a leading in decisions concerning the curatorial approach, architectural design, construction protocol, and graphic signage. The project was advised by OMA partners Rem Koolhaas and Ellen van Loon. I collaborated with three other OMA designers (Khalid Al Nasser, Anna Pribylova, Shuchen Xiang), held and organized numerous meetings with OMA partners, the NAi curatorial team, contractors, and graphic designers.

I managed this project for several weeks while Saskia Simon was traveling.


This project was developed over a period of four months following standard phases: Schematic Design, Design Development, Construction Documents, Construction Administration.


The Netherlands' Architecture Institute (Nederlands Architectuurinstituut — NAi) was rebranded in 2013 to become known as Het Nieuwe Instituut.

It is the curse of museums that so many of their treasures appear insignificant at first sight.

Project Statement


The Netherlands Architecture Institute holds a vast archive of artifacts considered to be jewels by architectural historians. However the archive was exclusively consulted by matured experts, and remained invisible to the Netherlands' diver design community. NAi director Ole Bouman decided to exhibit 100 of the NAi’s archive most interesting artifacts in a non-permanent gallery designed to appeal to a public of non-experts. A space located in a subterranean room previously inaccesible to the public. OMA, the architectural firm at which I worked was hired to design the new gallery.
Location of the Treasury within the NAi


Following an iterative research process, the retained project retained to trigger curiosity was to setup a process of voyeurism. Such process works on a close and secret relationship between viewer and artifact that is made visible to other people to generate the desire to see.
Staged voyeurism


The Treasury is organized across two display systems: a circular area in which an assertive curatorial approach fosters an overall understanding of the collection; and small private booths at the perimeter, where single pieces are shown to the individual visitor.
The contrast between circular and linear displays creates a distinctive experiential dynamic.


The objects are exhibited behind translucent curtains, which leaves the intermediate space free of information, but not without the sense of the presence of treasures. Within the cabinets and within the circular center, the sense of space is never lost as the semi-transparent walls reveal the presence of the adjacent treasures.
The translucency of materials creates curiosity and intrigue.
Scope & Constraints


The NAi Treasury's scope was small in architectural size but large in discursive terms. The project was constrained with the necessity of a high conceptual rigor generating narratives that would make design appealing to experts as much as those uninitiated in the field.
Curatorial studies for the circular display.


One of the project's main challenges was finding a concept both discursive and architectural that OMA's internal team would be convinced by. Our team decided to work with OMA's famous design process of quick and strategic iterations, generating many options
Once that concept was outlined, the architectural detailing had to translate the concepts allure into material and spatial frameworks.

Partition iterations.
Process & What I Did

Defining the problem

Ideating the Solution

Schematic Design

Design Development

Construction Documents

Construction Administration

Outcome & Lessons


NAi director Ole Bouman and architect Rem Koolhaas guide a crowd of visitors to

NAi Treasury in the Press

The architectural, curatorial, and graphic approaches of the NAi Treasury were viewed by top publications in art and design. Click on the hyperlinks below to navigate towards articles.


Detail Magazine

Graphic Language

For reference

NAi Treasury on OMA's website

Text LinkProject StatementScope & ConstraintsProcess & What I DidOutcome & Lessons
NAi Treasury