The design of Grimmwelt was determined by a competition in 2011. It was launched with the objective of developing a museum for the presentation and exploration of the Brothers Grimm’s works and creating a centre to keep alive the spirit and mind of the two linguists. From an urban design perspective, the new build is the key part of a master plan, which forms a triad together with the Grimm monument and the Grimm display in the Hessian State Museum close by.
Architecture and topography
The particularities of the location formed the design: the building is positioned on the southern side of Weinberg in the middle of a beautiful listed park. The accessible sculpture is perceived as a structural continuation of the steep slope, which was terraced at the turn of the last century for the construction of two factory owners’ villas. The remnants of a stairway and a wellhead are a reminder of the so-called Henschel Haus, which was destroyed by an air raid in and was situated where the new museum now stands. The stone relics will continue to be part of the garden with the effect that the new build is not only embedded in the urban landscape but also in the history of the grounds.
The building protrudes from the slope like a further rampart and literally invites visitors to explore and clamber the broad and slightly tapered stairway embedded in the southern facade that leads up to the roof: an accessible area ten metres above the ground measuring 2000 square metres and designed as a rising terraced landscape. The exterior walls are drawn up beyond the roof level as parapets and stepped to match the level of the roof landscape. A variety of events can take place on the spacious terrace – even outside opening hours – in order to make up for the valuable space lost to public use by the museum.
The reinforced concrete structure has an outer leaf of light coloured natural stone, Gauinger Travertin, roughly split with courses of varied height. The building is compact without, however, appearing stout. The choice of material reflects properties of the local limestone found under the existing hill, once a vineyard. A glass box projects from the iridescent roof surface reflecting the surrounding environment. It is in fact a lift, which provides barrier-free access to the roof terrace.
After entering the building, visitors are awarded with a spectacular view of Kassel’s surroundings. The foyer is high and reaches the full depth of the building ending in floor-level windows that open up to the familiar panorama.
The most fascinating room, the introductory room, is to the left of the foyer. It is positioned in the centre of the building, spans four levels and has two very specific functions. Its full-height, pearly white and fine-grain plastered walls are used as projection surfaces and are thus part of the exhibition. But more than anything else, the space functions as a distributor, and this is where visitors start to understand the impact the terraced structure has on the interior’s arrangement: there are no conventionally stacked levels, but staggered semi-storeys designed according to the split-level principle. The height of the introductory room allows views into all four publicly accessible areas of the museum, thus connecting the different contents within the 1600-square-metre exhibition space.
The café, which is also used outside museum opening hours, is attached to the introductory room. The sloped ceiling traces the outdoor stairway on the southern side of the building; the flow of space is emphasised by the uniform sheathing of the walls and ceilings in the foyer. Oak panelling has been used as a reference to the frequently repeated theme of the forest in the Grimms’ Fairy Tales. The ceiling in the foyer, as is the case for all other areas in the museum except for the offices and ancillary rooms, is also sloped; right angles are an exception throughout the entire building. Most floors are finished in light terrazzo.
The administrative wing with offices for the employees is located on the right side of the foyer, looking south. It is a very basic, clear structure. Glass partition walls and simple screens encourage communication among colleagues. A wide ribbon of windows wraps around the north-west corner of the building; a separate entrance to the office area is positioned in the west facade.
The exhibition areas, which are accessed from the introductory room, have a life of their own due to the clear layout of space and can therefore be devoted to a variety of different subjects. The small embrasure-like windows on level -1 only allow diffuse light to penetrate into the exhibition space. Level -1 and -2 accommodate the permanent exhibits. The museum concept designed by Holzer Kobler Architekturen and hürlimann+lepp is organised according to individual letters and terms taken from the Brothers Grimm’s German Dictionary. Level 0 with the entrance area also provides access to the highest level E1 with 400 square metres for changing exhibitions and a ceiling with white lamella panels. In contrast to the window-less room, the adjoining area for museum pedagogy is fitted out with a panorama window providing yet another privileged view to the south.
The ups and downs of paths through the terraced park, the stairways and alternating levels are continued inside – in a sense, it is a building designed to persist with its environment and not only in it. It is a museum that does not only want to present contents, but mediate their existence in a playful way, adopting the visitors as participants and providing them with an aesthetic and multifaceted framework for the experience.
Location: Kassel (DE)
Volume: GFA 6,000m² incl. roof area GV 24,400m³
Competition: 2011, 2nd prize; VOF procedure 2012, 1st prize
Client: documenta Stadt Kassel
Architect: kadawittfeldarchitektur | www.kwa.ac
Exhibition design: Holzer Kobler Architekturen
Curatorial concept: Hürlimann + Lepp Ausstellungen
Kassel is the town in Germany which flourishes every five years and becomes the focal point for art lovers from around the world. Kassel, however, is more than just the documenta and 100 days of contemporary art. At a first glance, Kassel is not an architectural jewel; nevertheless, it features some classic ‘50s and ‘60s buildings that were developed in the reconstruction period following the severe destruction of the Second World War. Many of the buildings incorporate lavish yet unpretentious and elegant staircases that no client would dare afford today. Steps and stairways also characterise one of Kassel’s main axes between the main station and Friedrichsplatz, a long, terraced urban land-scape and Germany’s first pedestrian zone.
Since 2013, Kassel has been home to a World Heritage Site: the Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe with its famous fountains and waterfalls. Furthermore, Kassel is the place where two of the most important researchers of the German language, the brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, once lived for more than 30 years. In 1860, Jacob Grimm wrote that these had been his happiest years. The almost symbiotic relationship of the two brothers gives reason to believe that Wilhelm felt the same way. The new Grimm Museum and the dedication of a square to the Grimm brothers, Grimmplatz, bear witness to this cultural heritage.
Grimmwelt - new addition to the museum landscape
A new element is now replacing the original museum, which was first opened in 1959: the new build is the central component of a masterplan including the Grimm monument and the Grimm section in the Murhardsche Library of the Hessian State Museum. With its varied exhibition areas, Grimmwelt is dedicated to the “Fairy Tale Brothers” and designed as a focal point to research into and keep alive the spirit and works of the two linguists.
Competition The design of Grimmwelt was determined by a competition in 2011. It was launched with the objective of developing a museum for the presentation and exploration of the Brothers Grimm’s works and creating a centre to keep alive the spirit and mind of the two linguists. From an urban design perspective, the new build is the key part of a master plan, which forms a triad together with the Grimm monument and the Grimm display in the Hessian State Museum close by. Architecture and...