Germany’s Ruhr region is boasting a new landmark: After a four-year-long effort, Swiss architectural venture Herzog & de Meuron has now unveiled the extension of the Küppersmühle Museum in Duisburg. Three structures of varying heights form the new main edifice, which rounds off the row of structures flanking the harbor basin. From September 25, 2021, the  5,000-square-metre museum in Germany’s Ruhr region opened its doors to visitors once again showcasing works from the Ströher Collection across an additional 2,500 square meters; on display are about 300 works, spanning the immediate post-war period to the present day. With interiors formed from stunning white cubes and a magnificent red brick façade, MKM is now a prominent hub for German and European post-war art. 

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The Historic Silos

Swiss architectural venture Herzog de Meuron was formed in 1978 by Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron and has designed several iconic cultural landmarks around the globe including the Tate Modern in London, which occupies a converted power station. As part of the new extension project, Herzog & de Meuron restored the historic silos and integrated them into the new buildings, from which the new and existing galleries are bridged on the first and second upper levels. The firm decided to preserve the silos as an industrial monument, by retaining its original design and material.  A viewing platform on top of the silos that offers sweeping views of the Ruhr region is accessible to the visitors, depending on the time of year and weather. “The extension accords with the sequence of impressive historical brick structures lining the dockside,” the firm stated. The new extension terminates in a square boasting thirty-five sycamore trees – a green urban oasis.

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Brick Façade combined with White Cubes For Extension Of Küppersmühle Museum designed by Herzog & De Meuron - Sheet1
Extension of Küppersmühle Museum_ArchDaily

In Conversation with Herzog & de Meuron

The extension design takes a cue from the existing buildings in terms of height, weight, and material, keeping its continuity to form a harmonious whole. “The new project constitutes an integrating and complementary architecture” it comprises three portions of heights 33.5, 30.5, and 27.5 meters respectively. 

“Consequently, the new structure completes the existing museum and harbor basin in a visually appropriate way, and forms a suitable conclusion to the row of buildings along the harbor basin.” The firm stated.

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As Herzog & de Meuron points out, “the original idea of an illuminated cube balanced on the silo towers and visible from afar has been jettisoned. Instead, we propose to erect a building whose dimensions and materials accord with the sequence of historic brick structures lining the dockside.” “The new structure thus completes the existing museum complex in a visually appropriate way and forms a suitable conclusion to the row of buildings along the dock. At first glance, it might seem as though the new building had always been there.”

Brick Façade combined with White Cubes For Extension Of Küppersmühle Museum designed by Herzog & De Meuron - Sheet2
Extension of Küppersmühle Museum_ArchDaily
Extension of Küppersmühle Museum_ArchDaily

The Design

While two portions house the gallery space of 2500 square meters, which showcases an extensive collection of German and European post-war art, the third part provides access and holds several utilities and art handling facilities.  Thirty-five well-lit exhibits have been created over the four stories. The museum structure has five storeys, with one underground, in addition to the gallery space, the floor area amounts to 4,900 square meters. “Massing was crucially influenced by a ban on building within forty meters of the autobahn,” noted the studio. 

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“Optimum use is made of the available area. The arrangement of the exhibition structures – the tallest of the three parts and the smaller one adjoining it – echoes the course of the building-free zone, while one elevation of the third part runs along its boundary.” The team added. The extension sits alongside a silo tower and its upper levels are connected to the museum’s existing building by a series of bridges that pass through the silos facilitating uninterrupted access for visitors throughout the museum complex. 

A Priceless Asset

“The resulting project constitutes a radical new start,” stated Herzog & de Meuron in their project narrative for the new extension. “The new exhibition areas echo the overall additive character of the Küppersmühle as a typical industrial facility of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries,” noted Herzog & de Meuron. “  “the principal objective of the collectors, namely to present “their” artists with selections of works from across the different creative phases of their careers is a godsend for the museum,” said Walter Smerling, Director, MKM. “For now visitors can experience German art history first-hand, compare the teacher and student generations, and trace the artistic development of famous individual artists. The extension, and the new opening, which will see the collection presented on this scale for the first time, represents a priceless asset for the artistic landscape of the Federal Republic of Germany.”

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Author

Sowmya is an architectural journalist and writer. In this column, Sowmya takes you through stories on eco-architecture, biophilic design, and green buildings from across the globe.

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