Herzog & de Meuron Basel Ltd.
4056 Basel, Switzerland
Phone: +41 61 385 5757
The Küppersmühle is an imposing brickwork building erected by Joseph Weiss and the Kiefer Brothers between 1908 and 1916. Even in today’s changed urban landscape, the building in the north of Duisburg still functions as a striking metropolitan landmark. It is the most important historical structure in the inner harbor and is being remodeled after a master plan by the English architect, Norman Foster. Today the Küppersmühle houses a museum with an exhibition area of ca. 4,850sqm, restaurant catering of ca. 920sqm and service areas of 5,480sqm. The museum contains part of Hans Grothe’s collection: German postwar art, in particular the work of Polke, Baselitz, Lüpertz, Penck, Richter, Darboven, Kiefer, Horn, Trockel, Immendorff and Rückriem.
The conversion of the industrial building into a museum for the Grothe Collection was of special interest to us because the planning was running parallel to the Tate Modern project in London, which was also accommodated in an imposing brickwork building, a former power plant. In contrast to the Tate, where only the shell of the building was preserved, most of the load-bearing structure of the Küppersmühle could be incorporated in the renovations. The height of the exhibition spaces (5-6m) necessitated taking out some of the ceilings. The existing windows in the area of the exhibition spaces were walled up with bricks of the same quality as the original brickwork. This heightens the monolithic effect of the building even more.
Daylight for the exhibition spaces comes through full-height slits in the brickwork. These narrow openings have been tested on models and similar slits have proved successful in Rémy Zaugg’s studio in Mulhouse. They provide an enclosed and concentrated space, which was also a cherished wish for the Grothe Collection. In addition, the openings afford a view outdoors and add the animating effect of daylight to the omnipresent artificial illumination.
A new stairwell tower complements the overall composition of protruding and recessed building components. It is somewhat like a separate building with a spatial quality of its own that comfortably links the three floors of exhibition space. The proportions of the treads have been designed to make the use of the stairs somewhat slower than usual. This conscious deceleration of movement ties in with the architectural strategy of a site for calm and concentrated perception.
Herzog & de Meuron, 1999
The historic mill building from 1916 during the conversion. The interior was densely packed with old machines.
Early model of exterior stairway.
Section model of stairway tower.
A conglomerate of volumes.
The new stairway tower integrates with the roof slant and verticality. Many of the old windows were closed in order to gain exhibition space. Sample with bricks in different colours for walling up windows.
Floor-to-ceiling window slits open up the exhibition spaces towards the harbor basin without destroying their integrity. During the day, the new window openings completely merge with the old façade structure.
The high exhibition spaces are lit with bare fluorescent lights. At night, the new window slits provide the façade with a second rhythm that points to the new use.
Whereas Herzog & de Meuron relinquish their design to the requirements of the art in the museum spaces, they create expressive accents in the stairway. The biomorphic spiral stairway changes its form from one floor to the other.
Gerhard Mack, Herzog & de Meuron: “Herzog & de Meuron 1992-1996. The Complete Works. Volume 3.” Edited by: Gerhard Mack. Chinese ed. Beijing, China Architecture & Building Press, 2010. Vol. No. 3.
Luis Fernández-Galiano (Ed.): “Arquitectura Viva. Herzog & de Meuron 1978-2007.” 2nd rev. ed. Madrid, Arquitectura Viva, 2007.
Fernando Márquez Cecilia, Richard Levene (Eds.): “El Croquis. Herzog & de Meuron 1981-2000. Between the Face and the Landscape. The Cunning of Cosmetics. Entre el Rostro y el Paisaje. La Astucia de la Cosmética.” 2nd adv. and rev. ed. Vol. No. 60+84, Madrid, El Croquis, 2005.
Nobuyuki Yoshida (Ed.): “Architecture and Urbanism. Herzog & de Meuron 1978-2002.” Tokyo, A+U Publishing Co., Ltd., 02.2002.
“Herzog & de Meuron. Natural History.” Edited by: Philip Ursprung. Exh. Cat. “Herzog & de Meuron. Archaeology of the Mind.” Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal. 23 October 2002 – 6 April 2003. 2nd ed. Baden, Lars Müller, 2005.
Ernst Hubeli, Jacques Herzog: “Eine Textmontage mit Jacques Herzog, neue Bauten von Herzog & de Meuron.” In: Verlegergemeinschaft Werk, Bauen + Wohnen (Ed.). “Werk, Bauen + Wohnen. Think Twice.” Vol. No. 12, Zurich, Verlag Bauen + Wohnen GmbH, 12.1999. pp. 34-39.
Christof Bodenbach: “Museum, Duisburg.” In: Deutsches Architekturmuseum, Frankfurt a. M. (Ed.). “Deutsches Architektur Museum Architektur Jahrbuch.” Munich / Frankfurt a. M., Prestel, 1999. pp. 104-109.
Benedikt Kraft: “Eigentlich wie immer schon.” In: “Deutsche Bauzeitschrift.” Vol. No. 12, Gütersloh, Bertelsmann Fachzeitschriften GmbH, 1999. pp. 56-59.