The integration of the Passive House certified museum Kunstmuseum Ravensburg into the fabric of a medieval city challenges the identity of architecture by bridging 500 years of vernacular with a single gesture. The museum maintains the German city’s fabric with a nod in materiality and form, but resolutely avoids mimicry or nostalgia. If you quickly walked passed it you may not even recognize it is of our era. The barrel vault roof relief and rich, historical brickwork allow the mass to slip into the old, dense neighborhood with only a whisper and wink of the contemporary on the outside.

Pass the first-of-its-kind revolving door and you’ll find a familiar 21st-century interior. Crisp white rooms host 20th-century Expressionism and Contemporary art in a nearly hermetically sealed container. Three floors for display and a basement archive make for a tidy program, one that does not attempt to distract from the contents.

The journey to the top is where the design’s coup d’état occurs. The tapering brick vault ceiling pulls you out of the airy space and plants you back into the old town.The museum’s effort not only bridges the past with the present,but stretches into the future by embracing the challenging energy standard of Passivhaus which originated only 350 km north in Darmstadt. By incorporating extremely low energy use, integrating the tried and true use of thermal mass with exhaustive insulation, the museum stretches the possibilities of inferred vernacularism comfortably into our contemporary understanding of high-performance building. In a stroke the museum maintains the fabric of the town while maintaining an interior energy flow, a kind of radical conservatism.

Architect Arno Lederer from LRO Architekten explains “When you first see the building we hope the first impression is that it’s very normal, very common. It starts with a second look, where you may think to yourself, ‘Oh there’s something funny.’ How people come through the town to the building at first is very important. There is a little courtyard between the street and the building. It’s good to have such a courtyard because it is a little more silent than on the street, people can gather before they go into the building. When you see the profile from the outside you want to go inside to see more of it. Again, it is old construction, very handcrafted. It’s not industrial and it works well with the old buildings around it, which are handcrafted.”

Excerpt from [ours] Hyperlocalization of Architecture chapter Germany Maintains, an eVolo Press book about worldwide contemporary sustainable archetypes.

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