The Abteiberg Museum, located in the heart of the historic German city Mönchengladbach. With a mastermind like Hans Hollein being behind the alluring post-modernist design of the contemporary art museum. Hollein, an Austrian architect recognized for his designs and the philosophies behind them, and producing unique innovative proposals is one of them. Hence, representing the Abteiberg Museum as a work of art standing on its own that showcases different works of numerous artists. The planning of the structure was founded in 1971, however it was completed to be the post-modernist building that is to today in the year of 1982. The style, materials, and construction of the urban design are integrated from Hollein’s concept of a contemporary museum, making his proposal an original piece of art.

These are the architectural fundamentals of the Abteiberg Museum. 

The Design Philosophy 

The contemporary art museum was seamlessly and elegantly built having its prominent façade face the hillside area of the landscape. Although there were many concerns in terms of the design, the harmony between Hollein’s building and the typography of the west German site gives the modernist building a sensation of belonging in the neighborhood. The museum is designed to have different configuration spaces of different volumes offering both artificial and mainly natural lighting into the building, as the ratio percentage of windows to the stone cladding is higher in the front façade of each volume, giving the experience being in the museum a spatial sensation.  

The segmentation of the museum’s design allows Hollein to produce a smaller scale of a larger complex urban design, that offers sustainable solutions. Oriented amongst an abbey and cathedral, with the museum’s structure being inclined to make it a piece of art that stands out in between the alluring baroque village, having one of the volumes a beautiful glass pavilion reflecting the surrounding landscape making the Abteiberg Museum an important attraction point in the city.  

Art Meets Postmodernism 

Built to be the Post-modern building that it is today, since 1982. The museum has been a symbol of the modernist movement. Being exposed between the baroque village and integrated with the existing vernacular emphasizes on the importance of hi-tech architecture with sustainable solutions and the postmodernism movement.

Extending from the orientation of the building to the materiality, Hans Hollein managed to connect art with architecture, representing his passion for the aesthetics of sustainability, as it has been significantly seen as being a technological aspect in the urban field. Hence, the sustainability of the design exemplifies the inter-play of being environmentally friendly with the implications of the German culture and the existing vernacular, whilst uniting the economy as the contemporary art museum holds social and economical importance to the city.

The Concept 

Hollein described the concept of the Abteiberg Museum as an ‘Adventure’, keeping the visitor in awe until what is coming in the next corner is revealed. With his different smaller-scaled volumes of the museum design, the way the building is elevated from the hillside, acts as a multidimensional statement that is revealed to the pedestrians from an angle, just like the inside of the museum. Although Hollein’s main concept elaborates on the composition of the building and its spatial arrangement, the notion of having an adventure through the museum, is more likely to have its visitors confused from the path and making it harder to keep track with what has been seen in the gallery of a spatial maze-like form of which is intended to be a spatial art. 

Material Palette 

Sleekly built to be blending with the typography and landscape of the site, the angular structure of the museum overall has a palette that consists of a mixture of metal and raw materials. Having the prominent façade of each volume a larger ratio of glass and windows to the mixed stone cladding. The earthy palette gives the building a delicate seamless blend to the inclined structure making it look natural within the landscape.      


Although the museum was said to be found in the year 1971, Hans Hollein submitted his thoughts, plans, and initial designs 4 years later, in the year 1974 after he was assigned the project. 3 years later, the construction phase of the museum started lasting up to 5 years until the year 1982. The elevated structure from the slope was a prime concern, in addition to the outcome of the contextual relation to the topography and its landscape.

Hollein managed to represent sustainability with the museum’s construction, through the prominent curved façade of the building offering angled views down the pathway of the slope, in addition to the shade and privacy it creates to the courtyard like the open-air public space of his design. Making use of the curved glass, allowing most of the sun rays in the building making the design sustainably efficient in energy consumption, showcasing the intelligence of his architectural design through its construction, whilst adding graphical depth to the building and allowing the visitor to enjoy the views of the greenery.

Abteiberg Museum by Hans Hollein- Sheet1
Abteiberg Museum © 
Abteiberg Museum by Hans Hollein- Sheet2
Abteiberg Museum © 
Abteiberg Museum by Hans Hollein- Sheet3
Abteiberg Museum © 

An Architecture BA graduate that aims to leave her mark by offering her skill-set and knowledge of architecture to the rest of the world, BaheyaSarhan is strongly passionate about sustainable designs and model making. She is currently interning at an architectural practice based in Bahrain.