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architectural record

february 2013



Städel Museum Extension | Frankfurt am Main | Schneider+Schumacher with Licht Kunst Licht

eyes wide shut

An enlightened design scheme doubles the exhibition space of a 19th-century museum with a daylight-filled subterranean gallery for contemporary art. By Linda C. Lentz

P H O T O G R A P H Y: © n orb e rt m i g u l e t z


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A hodgepodge of tightly packed additions connected to an 1878 Neo-Renaissance building by German architect Oskar Sommer, the Städel Museum dominates a stretch of cultural institutions along Frankfurt’s Main River with an eclectic formality. By contrast, a recent expansion, built under the watch of director Max Hollein, is generating buzz in art and design circles for its groundbreaking approach to the seamless fusion of art, architecture, landscape, and light. Presented with the opportunity to boost the museum’s comprehensive holdings of Old Master works and modern art with contemporary pieces (including permanent loans from the Deutsche and DZ Banks), Hollein invited a select group of international architects to submit proposals that would double the existing exhibition space. The winning scheme by Frankfurt-based Schneider+Schumacher dared to go underground in order to preserve the museum’s limited green space. Tucked below a popular parklike garden, the 32,000-square-foot reinforced-concrete structure is organized to follow the central axis of the original building. The architects anchored this annex to the basement of a 1921 Garden Wing and created a graceful procession with a series of elegant stairways that lead visitors up to a new event mezzanine and the subtly refurbished 19th-century lobby one floor above. “The design had a ‘wow’ effect that intrigued the judges,” says Schneider+Schumacher managing director Kai Otto. “There is no actual building, but we still achieved the space they needed.” The challenge, he notes, was to infuse the subterranean space, dubbed the Garden Hall, with a generous sense of volume and daylight. So he and his team devised a gently domed green roof that tops an expanse of free-form concrete ceiling panels pierced with large holes. Supported by 12 slender columns, the finished ceiling curves up to an apex of 27 feet at the center of the gallery—creating a small hill on the grounds above—and holds 195 skylights in the apertures that form a playful array on the landscape. These are not simple skylights, however. Complex devices developed specifically for this project by the Bonn-based lighting-design firm Licht Kunst Licht, in close collaboration with the architects as well as the fixture and lighting manufacturers, they constitute a unique system configured for a variety of options—daylighting and LED—that assure optimum illumination throughout the gallery at any time. Measuring over 2 feet deep and graduating in diameter from about 5 feet at the perimeter of the hall to more than

The underground structure spans the 249-by-174-foot garden with a green roof and 195 skylights that illuminate the landscape and gallery below. But more than the roof is green. The building has efficient daylighting and geothermal systems, in-floor heating, and a cooled ceiling slab.


architectural record

february 2013


A series of elegant stairways leads visitors from the lobby to an event mezzanine and down to the Garden Hall annex (above). The skylights provide even illumination for temporary modular displays (right). A translucent textile diffuser stretched across the base of the skylights creates a fluid ceiling plane (below). Optional projection spotlights highlight individual pieces of art.

FPO image tk

St채del Museum extension

frankfurt am main

schneider+schumacher with licht kunst licht



architectural record

february 2013








6 New stair from existing




1 Main building (Oskar Sommer, 1878)

7 skylight

2 Garden Wing (Herman von haven/

8 fritted glazing

franz heberer, 1921)

9 shading/blackout louver

3 west wing (Gustav Peichl, 1990)

10 led

4 garden hall annex

11 textile diffusion layer

5 garden hall staircase

12 projection spotlight


7 9 10 11



3 FT.



1 M.

credits 8 feet at the center, the UV-resistant units each comprise several functional layers. At the top, convex laminated glazing is surfaced with slip-resistant ceramic frits and can be walked on (even driven over). Clear, low-iron glass ensures optimum, museum-quality color rendering. Controlled by a daylight sensor on the roof of an adjacent building, a system of adjustable louvers below the glass provides varying degrees of light transmission—from 100 percent to full blackout—that shield the art on sunny days or during special exhibitions. Additional built-in sensors compensate for such anomalies as foliage blocking a skylight. To supplement the daylight, a ring of warm and cool white LEDs

yields the desired ambience during evening hours and on cloudy days, while special sockets for optional projection spotlights allow curators to highlight individual works on display as needed. Finally, a translucent stretch textile at the base of the fixture diffuses both sunlight and LEDs, creating a fluid ceiling plane. “We call the skylights ‘eyes for the art,’ ” says Otto, “because they open and close to protect it.” In many ways, they might also represent the spirited vision of Hollein and his colleagues. A compelling installation in its own right, the Garden Hall is a luminous homage to its contents and signals that the venerable Städel has joined the 21st century. n

Architect: Schneider+

SIZE: 44,700 square feet

Schumacher — Till Schneider, Michael Schumacher, principals in charge; Kai Otto, managing director; Miriam Baake, project architect; Hans Eschmann, construction management

COST: approximately $45 million

lighting designer: Licht Kunst Licht — Andreas Schulz, principal in charge; Tanja Baum, project leader

units); Zumtobel (LED solutions, controls); Imtech Deutschland (installation)

ENGINEER: B&G Ingenieure

free-form ceiling: Ed. Züblin


flooring: R. Bayer

Zimmermann Lightsolutions (display lighting); Kuehn Malvezzi (exhibition design); Drees & Sommer (project management); Keller + Keller (landscape design) CLIENT: Städelsches Kunstinstitut

Completion date:

February 2012 SOURCES skylights: Seele Sedak (glazing

Betonsteinwerk (terrazzo) staircase: Pulver

Baudekoration (stucco lustro) walls: Baumgärtner

Einrichtungen (mobile and fixed)

Lkl staedel museum ar 02 2013