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A Modern Maastricht by the Meuse

A Modern Maastricht by the Meuse

Myra Prinsen - 2009-07-27

There’s far more to the city of Maastricht than its cozy old inner streets. On the bank of the Meuse River, just a few minutes walk from the city’s best known square, the Vrijthof, you’ll find the modern district of Céramique and a number of buildings that act as a reminder of the city’s industrial past.


The Hoeg Brok (High Bridge) acts as the main link between old Maastricht and the newer Céramique district. The area has been developed on the former industrial site of the Royal Sphinx ceramics manufacturer and its name is a reference to Société Céramique, another famous ceramics company once based in the area.
It was Jo Coenen, a former chief architect for the Netherlands government, who devised the Céramique master plan and who, along with a team of international architects, eventually completed the vast project.
The view of the rooftops below Hoeg Brok underlines the efforts made to maintain a connection between the district’s emerging new buildings and the city’s traditional architecture. The sloping roofs silhouetted beyond the next bridge are those of the regional government buildings where the Maastricht Treaty was signed in 1992.
Nods to the past
Remarkably, despite the splendour of the marvelous new buildings in Céramique, it’s a small white painted building at the end of the Hoeg Brok that really catches the eye. One of the few reminders of the former ceramics factory, this striking old building, now home to the city’s well-known Derlon Theatre, was the former Bordenhal where the painting of the ceramics once took place.
The large and impressive Plein 1992 is a popular meeting place and acts almost as the entrance point to Céramique. As well as being the location for the first branch of the city’s Maison Blanche Dael CoffeeLovers coffee house, the square is also notable for another example of Jo Coenen’s architectural design. The Céramique Centre accommodates the area’s library and town hall offices and has become a major tourist attraction as a venue for numerous exhibitions and events.
Guided tours of the Céramique Centre are available and throughout the building you’ll find numerous references that point to the site’s former life from the constantly changing display of Sphinx ceramics, to two great works from artist Ine van Helfteren, a butterfly and a flower, both made from ceramic shards.
Art Past And Present
The path along the Maas leads to two of the city’s most interesting museums, the Bonnefanten Museum and the Netherlands Architecture Institute (NAim). The Bonnefanten Museum tower, designed by Italian architect Aldo Rossi, is undoubtedly one of the city’s most distinctive pieces of architecture, with striking natural light that belies the building’s exterior and inner walls that are a work of art in themselves.
The museum collection comprises both classical and modern pieces. As part of Rijksmuseum Maastricht – an alliance between the Bonnefantenmuseum and the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam – the Bonnefantenmuseum houses a large collection of early Italian art accrued by Dutch collectors during the early 20th century. Entitled Palazzo, the display is scheduled to run until 2012. As well as the Palazzo collection, other classical pieces on display include medieval sculptures and paintings from the Southern Netherlands dating back to the 16th and early 17th centuries.
Two floors feature modern Minimalist and Arte Povera works dating from post-1980. As well as paintings and sculpture there are a number of video and photographic installations on view and several physical art works created for visitors to try.
The NAIm offers a more modern approach, not so much in terms of its architectural design and style, but more on conceptual issues and the interaction it encourages between people and the surrounding environment. Unlike the Bonnefanten Museum, the NAIm is not housed within one of the area’s modern buildings but in some former Sphinx factory buildings dating back to 1912, widely regarded as one of the area’s most interesting and historical pieces of architecture.
Recommended addresses
Coffee Lovers
Maison Blanche Dael is a Maastricht coffee roasting company dating back to 1878. This shop and coffee roasting house, situated in Maastricht’s Old Town, almost acts as a museum and the success of the Blanche Dael ‘Coffee Lovers’ concept in Céramique has led to additional branches of this trendy coffee bar opening at the local University, as well as a former Dominican church where the Selexyz bookstore is also now located. As well as house roasted coffee, breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea is also available.
Restaurant SOFA
This restaurant in the Sint Pietersplas marina area is just a few minutes drive from Ceramique and is popular with both the local business crowd and tourists. SOFA, an abbreviation of ‘Sounds Fantastic’, opened in early 2008 and comprises a cocktail bar, brasserie and restaurant.
It’s a particularly pleasant place to hang out during the summer months when guests can sit in the outdoor terrace overlooking the marina.
The location, it’s situated in the former coach house of the Hoogenweerth Castle, may be historical but the decor is distinctly modern with an interior dominated by white wood, black and white contrasts and shining lights. During winter, the restaurant is illuminated with hundreds of candles and owner and head chef, Jeroen Holten, has built a reputation for wonderful soups and sauces.
The Hoogenweerth Castle Hotel Suites
A 15th century hunting castle restored following a huge fire in 1993. Its former stables have now been transformed into spacious hotel suites that first opened in July 2008. Each suite offers up to 10 beds and boasts all mod cons including flat screen TV, DVD player, Internet access and an espresso machine. Guests can also pre-book breakfast and dinner at the adjoining SOFA restaurant.
Hotel St. Martenslane
Hip Hotel St. Martenslane, situated in Céramique’s Wyck district close to the central station, is a contemporary city hotel originally designed as a pilot for the Qbic hotel. Guests sleep in a modern cube room with coloured LED lamps and a spacious desk and dining area at the foot of the bed.
You’ll find minimal use of textile furnishings, with hip, anti-allergy designer chairs and tables to provide added comfort. As well as a snacks and drinks, the reception area’s ‘Grab & Go Corner’ offers guests the opportunity to buy anything that they may need - from a toothbrush, to a phone card or charger.
Centre Céramique
Avenue Céramique 5
6221 KV   Maastricht
Tel. 043-3505600
Avenue Céramique 250
6221 KX  Maastricht
Tel. 043-3290190
Nederlands Architectuurinstituut Maastricht (NAiM)
Avenue Céramique 226
6221 KX  Maastricht
Tel. 043-3503020
Coffee Lovers – Plein 1992 Céramique
Ruiterij 2
6221 EW  Maastricht
Tel. 043-3561944
Restaurant SOFA
Hoge Weerd 6
6229 AM  Maastricht
Tel. 043-3671337
Hotelsuites Kasteel De Hoogenweerth
Hoge Weerd 2
6229 AM  Maastricht
Tel. 06-34838390
Hotel St. Martenslane
Sint Maartenslaan 1-7
6221 AV  Maastricht
Tel. 043-3211111

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