The Netherlands Architecture Institute was a merger of three institutions based in Amsterdam: the “Living” Foundation, Dutch Centre for Documentation of Architecture and Architectural Museum Foundation. Rotterdam is not only the architectural capital of the Netherlands, but was harshly endowed where cultural institutions and national museums are concerned. In 1988, the designer of this important building was chosen via an invited competition. Six architects made a plan, with Rem Koolhaas almost crowned, but Coenen tipped as surprise winner. The realization of the design was extremely difficult. Meanwhile, the NAI settled in a temporary space on the Westersingel in Rotterdam.
The design of the institute by Coenen houses the main functions in separate parts of the building: the archive, the exhibition space and staff. Each building has its own architectural characteristics and its own relationship with the environment. The elongated archive building follows the curve of the Rochussenstraat and thus separates the Museum Park off the busy traffic route. The archive stands on concrete discs, creating an arcade and a visual connection to the park. In the evening the arcade is spectacularly lid by a sculpture by Peter Struycken. The archive building contains storage for archives and research spaces.
The exhibition building is a square volume of concrete, lined with brick. Besides a large and high exhibition hall, a gallery and a balcony room are made. The top floor sits between six concrete girders, and the floors consist of steel gratings so light can penetrate from the transparent roof into the main hall. Because of heights, these grids are now covered with carpet. The large, high exhibition hall can be used in many ways. The different floors are accessible via a ramp.
The high glass middle section contains offices and a library, an air-bridge connects to the study areas in the archive building. The construction consists of steel columns at the exterior of the facade, coming together in a steel pergola overhanging the building. In the base of two floors of this building are part of the central entrance and lobby. The entrance is accessible from the arcade, but also from the Museum via a wooden footbridge over the pond. In the pond a masterpiece by Auke de Vries was placed.
In the winter of 2010 the building was adapted to new needs and insights by the original architect Jo Coenen. The entrance area has been substantially renovated, the bookstore, the cafe-restaurant and educational functions have been given a more prominent place. On the first of Januari 2013 the Dutch Architecture Institute merged with Premsela, Dutch institute voor design and Virtual Platform, institute for e-culture. The new name is The New Institute, for architecture, design and e-culture.