The Van Gogh Museum faces the Paulus Potterstraat and has its back to the Museumplein (Museum Square). Until a few years ago this square did not really function as such. It was bisected by a busy road running from the Concertgebouw to the Rijksmuseum, and was otherwise featureless apart from a few patches of grass, the odd herring stall and an occasional passer-by.
It was decided that the Museumplein should be made more attractive and used more intensively, and so in 1996-99 it was given a facelift. First the eastern part was redesigned. Next, a huge section in the middle was dug up so that an underground car park could be built. Then trees were moved, and a pond, grassy areas and gravel paths were laid out. Sight and lighting lines were created. At the Rijksmuseum end two pavilions were built, one for the shop operated jointly by the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum and one for the Cobra café.
This complete redesign was the work of the Swedish landscape architect Sven-Ingvar Andersson. The new Museumplein reflects his vision of a large, open expanse in the city where people can meet, stroll and relax. Especially in summer, the square is very popular with museum visitors, schoolchildren and sun worshippers on their lunch break.