In Groesbeek, the Netherlands, the Freedom Museum has been awarded a prestigious award for its building design — the Architecture MasterPrize for 2022. The museum has a unique structure called a Shaded Dome, which is the creation of a company called Shaded Dome Technologies. This museum looks like a covered sports stadium or a parachute, the latter being a recognized symbol of liberation at the end of World War II.

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Outside of the Freedom Museum with grass and fall leaves on trees

The museum won the architectural award in the Cultural Architecture category. The Architecture MasterPrize, an international American prize for architecture, is regarded as a leading award in its field.

Related: Floating pavilion tests the idea of an immersive art museum

Far view of the museum with a reflective roof

Rob Torsing, architect and partner at ZJA, said of the award: “We are extremely honored that the Freedom Museum in Groesbeek has been awarded the Architecture MasterPrize. It is an accolade for an extraordinary project. The Freedom Museum has a striking form and is an exceptionally sustainable building, with an optimal indoor climate even in extreme weather conditions. Furthermore, the Shaded Dome makes efficient use of both materials and technology.”

Museum with curved dome roof and a field below

Additionally, the museum sits among trees on a low hilltop. It’s also tilted toward the valley below and cut away in that direction to create a clear entrance to the rounded structure. Offices and a depot are below ground level, with a restaurant that has a view of the valley from which the Allied troops once moved toward Germany to win the war.

Curved and inflatable roof

The tilted dome creates a space for open-air events and for green plantings between the museum and the Canadian military cemetery next door. Wiel Lenders, director of the Freedom Museum, said: “We are enormously proud because the content of the museum, like the architecture of the building, is innovative and striking. For young and old, we tell a cross-border and multi-perspective story of War and Peace without boundaries that connects with both the history of the twentieth century and current events.”

Roof upheld by white poles

In fact, the roof inflates, which raises self-righting spacers to keep the ceiling inflated for airflow that carries away the heat of the sun. The space between the roof layers is about 50 centimeters. This allows the building to use less energy than other tent-type structures. Further, Shaded Dome Technologies was founded by architectural studio ZJA, Royal HaskoningDHV and Polyned.

Entrance to the museum with paved sidewalks

It’s clear the design of this museum is a lot more than lip service to memorializing the troops who helped liberate Europe. Even the function of the roof of the building harkens back to its parachute inspiration. Air pressure, a concrete plinth and a network of steel cables support the dome. Meanwhile, the roof is a high-tech textile with an insulated inner and outer fabric separated by spacers.

Inside the museum that is circular in design

The interior needs no support pillars, so the museum’s interior of 25,833 square feet (2,400 square meters) can be divided up for any use. The highest part of the dome is 39 feet (12 meters) with a free span of 196 feet (60 meters). This allows room for the museum, reception space, cafe and exhibition spaces to be reworked without extra construction waste.

This construction method also reduced the costs and materials needed to create such a large structure. It also meets the standards of a building that needs to have a controlled climate to house museum exhibits. It’s an inspiring combination of functionality and nostalgic design while keeping sustainability front and center for an optimistic future.


Images via ZJA