Musée Unterlinden, Extension
Colmar, France
Competition 2009, project 2010-2012, realization 2012-2015

The project for the extension of the Unterlinden Museum in Colmar encompasses three dimensions: urban development, architecture and museography. It centers on the issues of reconstruction, simulation and integration.

Urban development
After the extension, two building complexes face each other across the Unterlinden square, whilst they are physically connected by an underground gallery. The medieval convent consisting of a church, a cloister, a fountain and a garden stand to one side. On the other side of the square, the new museum building mirrors the church’s volume and, together with the former municipal baths constitutes a second, enclosed court.
Between the two museum complexes, the Unterlinden Square has recovered its historical significance, recalling the times when stables and farm buildings formed across from the convent, an ensemble called “Ackerhof”. What was before the museum’s renovation a bus stop and a parking lot, has become a new public and urban space. The Sinn canal, which flows under Colmar's old town, is reopened and becomes the central element of this new public space. Close to the water, a small house marks the museum's presence on the square: its positioning, volume and shape are those of the mill that once stood there. Two windows allow passers-by to look downwards at the underground gallery connecting the two ensembles of buildings.

We were looking for an urban configuration and architectural language that would fit into the old town and yet, upon closer inspection, appear contemporary.
Moved to the centre of the Unterlinden square, facing the canal, the entrance to the expanded Museum leads to the convent, whose facade was delicately renovated. The renovation works were carried out in close collaboration with the architects of the French national heritage. Museological components from the recent past were removed and the spaces restored to a former state. We revealed original wood ceilings and reopened formerly blocked windows looking out on the cloister and the city. The church’s roof was renovated and a new wood floor was installed in the nave. Visitors walk down a new, cast spiral staircase leading to the underground gallery that connects the convent with the new building.
Inside, we decided to design the underground gallery and the new exhibition building (now called “Ackerhof”), which present the 19th- and 20th-century collections, along contemporary, abstract lines. The space on the second floor of the Ackerhof is dedicated to temporary exhibitions: its gabled roof and exceptional height (11.5 meters) reflect the proportions/volumes of the Dominican church standing opposite. The central space of the former municipal baths, the swimming pool ("La Piscine”), is connected to the new exhibition spaces. It serves as a venue for concerts, conferences, celebrations and contemporary art installations. The other spaces of the former baths house the administration of the museum, a library, a café facing the new courtyard and the Colmar Tourist Office facing Unterlinden Square.

The Ackerhof and the small house have facades made of irregular, hand-broken bricks, entering into dialogue with the convent facades in quarry stone and plaster that were redone many times over the centuries. A few lancet windows are cut into these brick walls; the roof gables are in copper. The new courtyard is paved in sandstone, as is the Unterlinden Square, while the enclosing walls are made of the same brick as the new buildings. At the heart of the courtyard, an orchard, the “Pomarium” is growing on a platform made of stone and brick.

Collection and Museography
In close collaboration with Jean-François Chevrier and Élia Pijollet, as well as with the museum’s curators, the museography and the architecture go hand in hand. The collections comprise works of worldwide renown from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance—most notably, the Isenheim Altarpiece by Matthias Grünewald and Nicolas von Hagenau (1505-1516), but also designs, prints and patterns for the production of textiles, photographs, paintings, sculptures, faience pieces and ethnographic objects from the 19th and early 20th centuries, with a focus on local art and art history. From the 1960s onwards, a modern art collection was built up. As to the Isenheim Altarpiece, it remains in its original if more light-filled and less cluttered convent church location, although its presentation frame has been replaced by a sober steel structure. This makes the painted wood panels look more like artworks. Eleventh- to sixteenth-century paintings, sculptures, small altars and artifacts are on display on the neighboring ground floor and in the cloister. The downstairs floor presents the archaeological collections.
The underground gallery consists of a succession of three very different exhibition spaces. Beginning the circuit, we have the history of the Unterlinden Museum, covering a section of 19th-century and early 20th-century works. The second gallery displays three of the Museum's most important pieces: located under the little house, this room represents the core of the expanded Unterlinden Museum, uniting the project's three dimensions: urban development, architecture and museography.

On the first and second floors, the new building represents a loose chronological sequence of the 20th-century collection. Interconnected spatial units organize and structure the floor's overall volume, rather than subdividing it: here works or groups of works are exhibited in relation to one another.

Together with the museography for the collection of 20th-century art, the inaugural exhibition (from January to June 2016), curated by Jean-François Chevrier, will serve as an outstanding example of the uses to which the newly acquired spaces can be put, while presenting an exemplary reading of specific pieces from the collection.
Herzog & de Meuron, December 2015


Herzog & de Meuron Team:
Partners: Jacques Herzog, Pierre de Meuron, Christine Binswanger(Partner in Charge)
Project Team: Christoph Röttinger (Associate, Project Director),Christophe Leblond (Project Manager), Marco Zürn (Project Manager)

Edyta Augustynowicz (Digital Technologies), Farhad Ahmad (DigitalTechnologies), Aurélien Caetano, Delphine Camus, Arnaud Delugeard, Carlos Higinio Esteban, Judith Funke, Daniel Graignic Ramiro, Yann Gramegna, Wolfgang Hardt (Partner), Thorsten Kemper, Aron Lorincz (Digital Technologies), Donald Mak (Associate), Severin Odermatt, Valentin Ott, Alejo Paillard, Nathalie Rinne, Jordan Soriot, Raul Torres Martin (Digital Technologies), Guy Turin, Paul Vantieghem, Maria Vega Lopez, Caesar Zumthor

City of Colmar, France

Jean-François Chevrier, art historian, assisted by Élia Pijollet, Paris, France

Project Architect: Herzog & de Meuron SARL, France
Partner Architect: DeA Architectes, Mulhouse, France
General Planning: Herzog & de Meuron SARL, France
Structural Engineering: ARTELIA, Strasbourg, France
Acoustics: Echologos, Livry-Louvercy, France
Cost Consultant: C2Bi, Strasbourg, France

Facade: PPEngineering, Basel, Switzerland; Prof. Jäger, Dresden, Germany
Lighting Consultants: Arup, London, UK
Signage: NewID, Basel, Switzerland
Landscape Consultant: Cap Vert Ingénierie, Grenoble
Tree Consultant: August Künzel Landschaftsarchitekten, Basel, Switzerland

Building Data:
Site Area: 14'385m2 / 154'839sqft
Gross Floor Area (GFA): 7'700m2 / 82'882sqft

Detailed Data:
Gross floor area
Existing: 5'800 m2
New: 1'900 m2
Total: 7'700 m2

Exhibition area
Existing: 3'400 m2
New: 1'400 m2
Total: 4'800 m2

Ackerhof (new building)
Length: 50 m
Width: 12 m
Height: 19 m
Gross floor area: 1'500 m2
Gross volume: 13'000 m3
Brick facade surface: 1'300 m2
Levels: 4 (1 underground)

Underground gallery
Length: 58 m
Height: 3.5 m
Width: 7 m
Gross floor area: 400 m2
Gross volume: 1670 m3

Existing buildings
Ancient municipal bath & Administration: 1'600 m2
Cloister & Chapel: 4'200 m2

Public spaces
Place Unterlinden: 3'880 m2
Place de la Sinn: 3'755 m2

Use / Function:
Project encompassing the urban design of two public spaces, the renovation of a medieval convent from the 13th century and of former municipal baths from the beginning of the 20th century as well as the construction of an extension to the museum:
- Design of two public squares adjacent to the museum: Place Unterlinden and Place de la Sinn
- Refurbishment of a convent from the 13th century (for 11th to 16th century collections) with the conservation architect Richard Duplat
- New building (for 20th century collections and temporary exhibitions) called "Ackerhof"
- Underground gallery connecting the new building with the existing museum (for the 19th and 20th century)
- Renovation of the ancient municipal baths for events and art installations


Luis Fernández-Galiano (Ed.):  Arquitectura Viva Monografias. Herzog & de Meuron 2013-2017.

Vol. No. 191-192, Madrid, Arquitectura Viva SL, 12.2016.


Herzog & de Meuron.
In: Luis Fernández-Galiano (Ed.). Arquitectura Viva Proyectos. Vol. No. 040, Madrid, Arquitectura Viva SL, 2010. pp. 4-29.

Fernando Márquez Cecilia; Richard Levene (Eds.): El Croquis. Herzog & de Meuron 2005-2010. Programme, Monument, Landscape. Programa, Monumento, Paisaje.
Vol. No. 152/153, Madrid, El Croquis, 2010.