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The venerable 200 year old Städel Museum has just reopened after a major 3 year remodeling which, from the exterior, is a no more than a modest if not unique pokadotted lawn. Frankfurt’s hometown architecture firm schneider+schumacher used a subterranean program to provide 3,000 square meters of space for post war and contemporary art. Like massive portals the 195 circular skylights connect the underground space directly with sky creating a tension between landscape, form and light.

The new exhibition space is further exploration of a new urban topography which blends new with old in fortuitous arrangements. The addition is designed to avoid competition with the original building and subsequent wings but nearly doubles the institution’s size. The small hill inserted as the contemporary art annex’s roof and central grass courtyard softens the original building’s simple massing and restrained façade.

A large white descending staircase leads to even more white which finishes the walls, floors, and ceilings. The dominate architecture feature is the circular grid of skylights in the ceiling, providing context to the interior’s position in the surrounding environment. During daylight hours the galleries are dominated by a soft glow, ever changing throughout the day. Evening reverses the effect with the roof /courtyard illuminated from below in the dotted landscape.

 

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