IDFA Vondelpark: “The stories told in the building will give it meaning and bring joy”

    • News
    • May 10, 2023
    • By Nico van den Berg

    After signing the lease for the Vondelpark Pavilion, IDFA immediately got contractors involved to start the renovation. Architects Suzanna Weeda and Ronald Hooft, from architectural firm &prast&hooft, have since drawn up plans in close consultation with IDFA—and are now ready to actualize them in the coming months. Once renovated, IDFA will eagerly welcome audiences, professionals, and school children to our new home base, decked out with an intimate screening room and welcoming entrance hall. How do the two architects behind the restoration plan to bring IDFA’s character to the monumental building? What did they set out to accomplish?


    “The challenge was how to realize a low threshold and accessible building in such an imposing and historic setting,” says Ronald Hooft, one of the IDFA Vondelpark architects. “Navigating that was quite the journey. We wanted to limit our intervention in the building, while transforming it to ensure accessibility. The imposing building has a high threshold—both literally and figuratively—and therefore may not immediately be inviting. It’s grandeur and distant air is the opposite of what IDFA strives for. At the same time, the historic site is held dearly by Amsterdam locals, and its new function is guaranteed to inspire curiosity.” The new IDFA location aspires to draw younger audiences, who may be less familiar with the building’s history. “The moment the IDFA stir sets in motion, it will undoubtably invite broad groups of people over the threshold.”

    “As a boy, I wandered through the Vondelpark and spent many days and nights on this very terrace,” Ronald continues. “I also had the pleasure of seeing films in the original Filmmuseum cinema. Just like every Amsterdammer, I feel a close personal connection to this location. Even if you’ve never been inside it, the iconic structure is vividly etched in your memory. That makes this opportunity extremely special.”

    Blank canvas

    The fact that IDFA, as a documentary institute, has inspired both architects is evident from their enthusiasm. “A tour of a building is just like a script we’re trying to write,” he says. “We also want to offer visitors a certain degree of freedom. Think of it as a blank canvas for IDFA to make their own. Filmmakers from all corners of the globe—from Alaska to Yemen—will soon be welcome to visit the IDFA Vondelpark. The stories told in the building will give it meaning and bring joy.”

    Co-architect Suzanna Weeda speaks of her relationship with the building's rich history. “Every day, I get to know the building a little better. The Vondelpark Pavilion has had many different functions over the years, including the Filmmuseum, and has been renovated many times. Our plan now is mainly to restore the building to its former glory. The function was frequently more important to the form or quality of the space, but we want to strike a new balance moving forward.”

    Gravel tiles

    As we walk into the building’s entrance hall together, the extensive thought that has been put into establishing that balance becomes clear. “The entrance hall is a very imposing space, as is the building’s façade. That is not necessarily what IDFA wants to communicate,” explains Suzanna. “That’s why everything we are introducing to the space will work to contrast that. The bar is made up of gravel tiles, a common material found in your backyard. The bar will also be made adaptable, to allow the space to take on different identities. Large, beautiful arches will be restored on either side of the bar, filled with self-designed, multi-layered fabric panels,” Suzanna describes enthusiastically. “This represents the rich diversity of stories that IDFA showcases. And the monumental entrance hall will be fitted with simple benches, inviting visitors to sit and have a drink before and after a screening.”

    “The walls will be decorated with panels related to the Vondelpark,” adds Ronald. “They will reflect the building’s environment, to bring the outside world inside.”


    One of the most remarkable spaces will be the IDFA Cinema, fitted with 72 seats. The ornamental ceiling is currently covered up by technical fixings. “We are going to expose this and reveal the ceiling in all its brilliance, by restoring its original state,” says Suzanna. “Anything we are going to add to the space will be separate from the walls and ceiling.” Weighing in, Ronald adds, “The decorative ceiling will be the room’s centerpiece. Audiences can admire for a few minutes before the film starts. Then the lights will dim and 72 people can sit comfortably in an understated and luxurious environment, with perfect air conditions, fantastic sound, and superior image quality. Everything to place documentary film in the spotlight.”

    Next to the cinema, a multi-purpose space will be available for workshops, film screenings, events, and exhibitions. “Using curtains, we can create different atmospheres in the room, to make it adaptable to everyone’s needs,” explains Suzanna. The social space, adjacent to the cinema and the entrance hall, will offer a unique combination of spaces and guests. “We hope that international guests feel at home here, comfortable to enjoy a coffee, edit their films, write scripts, and have meaningful conversations in this social space. The goal is to create an interactive space for everyone to meet: IDFA staff, professional guests, and all the building’s visitors.”

    &prast&hooft has an extensive history of designs under their belt, including cinemas and the cinema in Forum Groningen. “That was a totally different building,” says Suzanna, “so we really started from scratch when designing the cinema. This is an assignment with its own distinctive dynamic, which makes it great to solve all the unique riddles along the way.”

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