“I TRY TO CREATE BUILDINGS THAT ARE LOVED.” Peter Zumthor
During the past 25 years, the Fondation Beyeler has become the most popular art museum in Switzerland. Through its program, it makes a significant contribution to the quality of life and attractiveness of the Basel region as well as to the level of cultural awareness there. Visitors come from near and far to see the impressive exhibitions, attend the wide range of events and enjoy the beautiful park. In order to be able to continue to satisfy the needs of art and the public in the future, the Fondation Beyeler is planning a new museum building.
Just two years after its inauguration in 1997, Renzo Piano’s museum building was extended so that temporary exhibitions could be regularly presented in addition to the renowned permanent collection. Even at that stage, Ernst Beyeler, the museum’s founder, anticipated the need for additional space and considered the previously unused southern end of the property along the Bachtelenweg to be ideal for a new musuem building. In recent years, his wish has become a necessity.
Courtesy Atelier Peter Zumthor
In the 21st century, a museum is a place for human beings and no longer just for objects. It is a social space in which visitors can have experiences on their own or together with others. People come to a museum for education, entertainment, recreation, encounters and interaction. Together with general exhibition activities, the organization of cultural events and art education are some of the core functions of a visitor-friendly museum today. Renzo Piano’s museum building does not, however, contain any suitable rooms for such events, so they have had to be held in the museum’s galleries. That has involved a considerable organizational and technical effort, as well as considerable restrictions and extra costs. This is a key reason for the planned new museum building. A second reason is the lack of galleries where, in addition to the active exhibition program, the constantly growing collection of modern and contemporary art can be permanently presented. There is also insufficient space to exhibit donations and works permanently loaned by artists, from artists’ estates and from private collections. The planned new museum building is therefore essential for the Fondation Beyeler’s successful development.
A unique opportunity for a new museum building has arisen with the acquisition of the neighboring Iselin-Weber Park. That park adjoins the Fondation Beyeler’s park to the south, beside the museum restaurant, being separated only by a small cul-de-sac, the Bachtelenweg. The new museum building will be constructed along the Bachtelenweg, thereby permitting the connection of the two parks. The previously private Iselin-Weber Park with its mature trees and a water lily pond will thus be made accessible to the public. Through the new museum building, a new recreational area will be created for the general public in the heart of Riehen. The link between the Fondation Beyeler and the center of the village will be strengthened. As in the past, the Bachtelenweg will remain accessible for neighboring residents, farmers, bikers and walkers going to the Langen Erlen.
The special characteristic of Peter Zumthor’s project is that it envisages not a single large museum building but three relatively small ones that are adapted to Riehen’s village-like character and blend harmoniously into the natural environment. In addition to the new museum building, Zumthor plans a simple building for administration and deliveries and a transparent pavilion for events. Together, the three buildings create a subtle link between the two parks.
general plan 1:500
Courtesy Atelier Peter Zumthor
The new museum building, the form of which is adapted to the large, mature trees, has a warm, light hue. Big windows provide changing vistas of the landscape. A total of 1,500 m2 of exhibition space (equal to slightly less than half that in Renzo Piano’s museum building) will be spread across three storeys. The space will be used to present a larger number of works from the permanent collection, but no infrastructure for temporary exhibitions is envisaged. Except in the year of its opening, the extension is therefore not expected to increase the overall number of visitors.
The garden pavilion will be built in the corner of the existing perimeter wall. Its glass façade is transparent and can be opened on warm days. Its wood-clad interior accommodates 200 to 300 people. During the day, local inhabitants and visitors to the museum will be able to use the pavilion free of charge as a place to relax and get together with another. In the evening, the building will be used for public cultural events such as artists’ talks, readings, films, performances, concerts and vernissages, as well as for vernissages and private events for companies and associations.
The new museum buildings will create more space for art and a superior infrastructure for events. In addition, the size of the Fondation Beyeler’s gardens will be doubled. The harmonious combination of art, architecture and nature for which the Fondation Beyeler is known and loved will be enhanced.
Funding for the new museum building is largely secured, coming from private donors and from the Beyeler-Stiftung. The project (acquisition of the land and the existing buildings, construction of the new buildings, and the operating, maintenance and program costs for the first ten years) is expected to cost CHF 120 million.
Atelier Peter Zumthor
At the end of a design study involving eleven renowned architectural firms from all over the world, a body of international experts unanimously selected the Atelier Peter Zumthor to realize the new museum building for the Fondation Beyeler.
Peter Zumthor (born 1943 in Basel) is known to a wider public through cultural buildings such as the Therme Vals spa complex, the Kunsthaus Bregenz, the Kolumba Kunstmuseum in Cologne and currently the LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art). Zumthor has won a large number of architectural prizes including the renowned Pritzker Prize and the Praemium Imperiale. His work is characterized by a calm architectural language, the subtle use of materials, a strong relationship to landscape and many years of experience with historic monuments. All the qualities of this great Swiss architect are demonstrated by his project for the Fondation Beyeler. The Basel region can look forward to another architectural jewel.