Herzog & de Meuron

Urban Planning and Architecture in Munich: a Classical Inheritance

In Munich, much more than in any other German city, urban planning and architecture stand squarely within a classical and Neoclassical tradition. This is the reason for the unusual degree of homogeneity and spatial generosity in many places in this city. The generous urban mood, reminiscent of Italy, is first perceived in the wonderful urban installations built for Bavarian kings over the centuries by such architecture greats as François CuvilliĂ©s, Giovanni Viscardi, Leo von Klenze, and Friedrich von Gärtner. Munich’s post-war redevelopment architecture makes an important contribution to the urban flavour of the city. As opposed to other cities, in Munich this redevelopment related strongly to local and classical traditions, a relationship that, seen from the distance of time, can well be appreciated today.

This project relates to Munich’s tradition and is the result of the deep conviction that urban planning need not be reinvented today. The project is also a radical, contemporary, urban planning framework, interpreting traditional elements such as the courtyard and the urban block in a new way specifically developed for this site.

The Site’s Typological Factors

This site is characterized by two fundamentally differing urban typologies that can be read on the city map much as urban words from Munich’s history books. On the one hand, there is the inner-city parcel structure reaching back to the roots of the medieval city. As in other European cities, this parcelling has simultaneously acquired a “natural” organic face from the original topography and the numerous interventions, inheritance divisions, and changes in function and use. For the most part, these typical inner-city parcels, including their inner courtyards intended to admit air and light, have been completely built over.

Opposing this individualistic, geometrically barely discernable parcel typology is the clear and geometrically-ordered court typology of the palace and other urban installations for Bavarian kings in which an ideal city, the physical illustration of an ideal world, is attempted.

The Project: Buildings and Courtyards, Integration of Two Munich Typologies

Both urban typologies are used in the project, integrated into a new, yet simultaneously traditional, urban pattern emphasizing both the closed quality of the peripheral block with its clear courtyard form and the individuality of the single buildings as elements, i.e. varying buildings adjacent to one another. The individual form of each building remains recognizable and nameable within the urban architectural framework: the bank, the art gallery, the Neues Gablerhaus, the Prannerhaus, and the Saalhaus.

A precise courtyard system, inspired by the formalized courtyards of the palace, lends the project its non interchangeable urban aura. Four long courtyards are formed specifically to characterize and name the public space within the new block: the Viscardihof, the Perusahof, the Prannerhof, and the central Salvatorhof.

The Block’s Elements: Buildings with Inner Courtyards

Like heavy stone blocks, each single building is lined up and joined to the other. Each building unmistakably expresses its own architectural independence as justified by differing building usage. Just as unmistakable is each building’s acknowledgement of the closed space of the block. Inside the block, the buildings push apart as if to make their own identities more legible and thus create space for four new public courtyards. The buildings’ facades are reticent. Different architects are here able to express themselves in different ways without risking a blurring of the urban architectural concept. In order to create a new overall picture with a rhythmic succession, this project’s facade strategy attempts to relate pre-existing historic facades like mosaic tiles to the new execution of the whole block.

Public Urban Space within the Block: a System with Four New Courtyards

The four new courtyards set the tone of the city’s public space within bank block in a totally independent and unmistakable way. They form a type of spatial orientation system. The long courtyards bear the names of their connecting streets and lanes and like urban geographical signs allude to them. Large letters made of stone slabs measure and name each courtyard: Viscardihof, Perusahof, Prannerhof, and Salvatorhof. A fifth courtyard, the Maffeihof, may be added to connect Maffeistrasse.

The four new courtyards’ forms are also spatially individual and non interchangeable. Since their elongated orientation expresses a dynamic movement having to do with strolling by businesses and show windows, they have something of the character of a street or lane while simultaneously emphasizing their urban geographic connecting character. Too, since the courtyards enclose a space and force adjacent buildings into a form, demanding from them a unified concept for the adjacent facades, they take on something of a piazza character.

Through the combination of street and piazza, the courtyards are, of course, also related to passages. Like them, they are the heart of an urban framework. The four new courtyards are, however, not roofed with glass and not built in quite the unified way a passage would be.

In their spatial expansion, the courtyards can be compared to the palace’s Kapellenhof. This neighbouring courtyard served as the comparative scale, a life-size model, for our project.

In their immediate physical presence in the midst of the city, the four courtyards can also be compared to Florence’s Uffizi which can simultaneously be experienced as outside and inside space. The passerby is in an outside space; nonetheless, in the middle of an urban room.

The corresponding concept for the facades obligates the different architects involved in further planning to follow one binding design idea: a perforated, e.g. textile-like outer facade layer in the four courtyards: blinds designed by Daniel Buren or curtains printed by Gerhard Richter, roll shutters lettered by RĂ©my Zaugg and Lawrence Weiner?

Herzog & de Meuron, 1996




Bayerische Hypotheken- und Wechsel-Bank AG, MĂĽnchen, Germany


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