The New Building
The LWL-Museum für Kunst und Kultur is one oft he largest museums in Germany focusing on art and cultural history. Since 1908 Westphalia’s central art museum has been located on the Domplatz in Münster. Significant acquisitions, through purchases, gifts and long-term loans, have steadily increased the institution’s inventory since its foundation in the 19th century. From the Middle Ages through to contemporary art, today the collection comprises more than 300,000 exhibits of the art and cultural history of Western Europe.
The first major building conversion took place in 1971, when the historic builiding’s exhibition spaces were extended by a new building. Eventually however this extension was also in servere need of renovation, so that in 2004 the Landschaftsverband Westfalen-Lippe (LWLL/the Westphalia-Lippe regional authority) decided upon a complete rebuild. As a result, it is today possible to accommodate the requirements of a wide-ranging collection, whose significance far exceeds just regional interest. The demolition of the building, including the part which was the former archaeology museum, has created space between Rothenburg, Pferdegasse and Domplatz for a new LWL-Museum für Kunst und Kulur.
In the same year, LWL invited submissions for the project, in an architectural competition that was won by the Volker Staab architectural office in Berlin; construction was begun on his design for a modern and generous new building in spring 2009. The initial challenge came in the form of the old building, which had a preservation order and additionally was not only to be connected to the new building, but was also to be adapted to the new requirements of a modern presentation of the collection. As a result, the first and second floors of the new building were linked to the historic old building at the same level. The link to the old building permits visitors to experience the display of the collection in an undisrupted, content-sensitive tour, which for the first time continues through to the spaces of the old building. An additional challenge that Volker Staab’s design had to consider, was the museum’s unique location within the historical centre of Münster, nevertheless it has proved possible to successfully merge the new building into its urban surroundings. In order to match the city’s existing aesthetics, a pale sandstone was selected to harmonize with neighbouring buildings and above all the Cathedral. The building has also taken the route of Pferdegasse into consideration, eventually tapering towards Domplatz, providing a literal indicative link to the Cathedral.
The distinctive, six metre high windows in the façade reflect an open and conscious interrelationship with the neighbouring environment. At the same time the sight lines encourage relations to develop from the interior to the exterior and vice versa. Already from outside the institution it is possible to obtain glimpses into the museum and of its art treasures – not only through the series of large windows, but also by means two display windows especially conceived for the presentation of art. These showcases, along with the contemporary gallery on Rothenburg and the medieval sculptures housed in the ‘Prow’ of the building, convey the collection’s broad spectrum.
The building, conceived specifically with the general public in mind and seamless integration into the city, has implemented this idea in an innovative manner. The highlight of its realization as an open museum is the “architecture of the courtyards”, the forecourt on Domplatz, the central foyer, the pation and the forecourt on Rothenburg. Volker Staab has, on the one hand, taken the existing Lichthof courtyard in the old building as his point of departure. On the other, he has created a successful axis connecting north to south, which transforms the museum into a public thoroughfare. Not only will visitors be able to enter the building directly through the two easily accessible main entrances, but in future passers-by will also be invited to stroll through the museum. This unique arcade-character transforms the museum into a public cultural space at the heart of the city. The spectacular foyer with its 14 metre high daylight ceiling is at the centre of the building. From there all areas of the museum are accessible. The exhibition rooms on the first and second floor may be entered via wide staircases. Within the exhibition spaces themselves the architecture is wholly at the service of the art itself. In 51 rooms, whose size and colour match the exhibits on display, the collection in presented in all its diversity. A chronological tour is as equally possible as a non-chronological one via the seven decentralized entrances. The double-height spaces, with galleries and comprehensive views through the floors in the transitional areas, link the various exhibition spaces. In selected places the tour is disrupted by “bridge spaces” which via openings to the outside enable generous views of the city. Additionally, on the second floor there is more than 1000 square metres available for temporary exhibitions. The construction work took five years, with the re-opening of the museum taking place in the autumn of 2014. The increase in exhibition space and the newly conceived display of the collection, means the LWL-Museum für Kunst und Kultur has become a modern exhibition building, in which more than 1000 years of art and cultural history wait to be discovered.
A total of 51 galleries are available in the new museum for the display of the collection and for temporary exhibitions. The route through the new display of the collection begins on the first floor of the new building with the art of the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and the Baroque and leads through the historical old building to the airy spaces illuminated by daylight on the second floor of the new building, in which the art of the present day is on view. On the second floor of the old building works of classical modernism are on display, including galleries dedicated to Expressionism, Neue Sachlichkeit and the Bauhaus. The Skulptur Projekte archive is incorporated into the layout of the ground and first floors of the old building. The area for temporary exhibitions is located on the second floor of the new building, comprising 1000 square metres of exhibition space across six galleries.
The design of the new collection galleries has been developed in close collaboration between the LWL-Museum’s curatorial team and the exhibition architects Space 4 based in Stuttgart.
In 2005 the Staab architectural office based in Berlin won the architecture competition to (re)construct the LWL-Museum für Kunst und Kultur. Staab’s work in recent years has included numerous museum projects such as the Neue Museum in Nürnberg, the renovation of the Albertinum in Dresden, as well as the chancery building of the German Embassy in Mexico and the service centre on Theresienwiese in Munich.
Further information can be found on their website www.staab-architekten.com.