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Global Architecture Platform

Kunstmuseum Basel

Basel, Switzerland, 2010-2016

The Kunstmuseum Basel’s new building redefines a prominent location in the heart of the Basel. The new and enlarged museum consists of two buildings that together form a unified presence in the urban space. They are in direct communication with each other across the street that runs between them. The new building’s roofline is level with that of the existing structure, so it meets its counterpart on an equal footing; its entrance looks out toward the main building’s arcades, which conversely enjoy an excellent view of its striking façade. At the same time, the indented façade is a gesture of welcome, an invitation. It frames the intersection, effectively turning it into its own forecourt. Each floor of the new building has two exhibition tracts connected vertically by the monumental central staircase. Together with the foyer zones, the staircase describes a free and expressive figure in space illuminated from above by a large round skylight. By contrast, the gallery suites as such are structured by right angles. On average, the galleries in the new building are larger and hence more flexible than those in the old building, while still hewing to classical expectations of what museum spaces should be like: serene and restrained, agreeably proportioned, and made of timeless materials. The actual connection between the main and new buildings beneath the road is not so much an underpass as an ensemble of large open spaces leading into a generous hall that is foyer, gallery, experimental space, and auditorium rolled into one. Here starts the central staircase of the new building, which echoes motifs of that in the main building: gray, veined Bardiglio marble from Carrara on the floor and rough scraped plaster in a cooler shade of gray on the walls.

The façades are gray brick walls that exude the timeless and archaic air of an ancient ruin. They were designed to be self-supporting and monolithic, and their emphatic horizontality, with elongated bricks that are just four centimeters high, heightens their presence. The striking pattern of shadows cast by the alternately projecting and receding layers of brick amplifies this impression. Like the main building’s façades, those of the new building hint at classical architecture’s standard tripartite order of base, middle, and capital. This order is visualized through the brickwork’s different shades of gray as well as a frieze executed as a delicate relief. The frieze, in its archetypal form, has always been part of the traditional architectural canon, but in the form it takes here it represents something quite new: sunk into the grooves of the frieze blocks are strips of LEDs that illuminate the hollows between the bricks, shedding an indirect light into the urban space. The result is a visually stimulating effect as the archaic-looking masonry begins to shine or, at a lower power setting, to glow. In summary the new building is neither a repetition nor a copy of the main building, but rather an emphatically contemporary, forward-looking building capable of accommodating completely new forms of art and the engagement with it.


Architects : Christ & Gantenbein
Dates: 2010-2016
Text and plans: Christ & Gantebein
Short film: Pablo Casals Aguirre, 2017

23.Jul.2018 3094 views
Christ & Gantenbein

Christ & Gantenbein is an architectural practice established by Emanuel Christ and Christoph Gantenbein in Basel in 1998. Among the designs most recently realised number the extension to Kunstmuseum Basel and the renovation of and extension to the Swiss National Museum in Zurich. Currently on the drawing board there is the extension to the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum in Cologne. Christ and Gantenbein have maintained a balance between their profession and academic involvement. After lectureships inter alia at the ETH Studio Basel (2000–2005), the HGK Basel (2002–2003), the Accademia di Architettura in Mendrisio (2004, 2006, 2009) and the Oslo School of Architecture and Design (2008), they returned to the ETH Zurich (2010–2015). They currently teach at Harvard GSD.

Portrait © Markus Jans
23.Jul.2018 3094 views
Pablo Casals Aguirre

Pablo Casals Aguirre is a Chilean architect and photographer graduated with honors by the UNAB in 2006. He has worked in several offices in Chile, prior to establishing his own office of architecture, design and photography in 2009. He has been teaching at the UNAB / Campus Creativo, where he is currently in charge of the Cinema-Architecture Workshop «Voyeur City». Within the framework of the exhibition White Mountain / 20 years of contemporary Chilean architecture, his audiovisual work Punta Pite received a distinction at the 5th Budapest Architecture Film Days. His work has been worldwide exhibited, notably at GAM in Santiago, Uffizi Museum in Florence, IUAV in Venice, Aedes Gallery in Berlin, the London Design Festival, and the Venice Architecture Biennale.

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