After a Europe-wide competition, Foster + Partners architects had been selected to remedy structural defects and adapt the building to the changed needs of a contemporary museum. In 2006, the Munich city council officially commissioned the firm to implement the museum’s “general renovation and partial reconstruction.”
The idea behind the architects’ designs was developed to meet several fundamental requirements: the historic threewing complex was to retain its outward appearance; no changes were to be made to the garden, which is protected as a historic monument; and Lenbach’s historic rooms were to remain untouched. The original entrance to the villa through the garden and up the large staircase, however, had long ceased to be adequate to the needs of a contemporary museum with large numbers of visitors, and did not provide barrier-free access.
Moreover, visitors faced a confusing maze of rooms immediately upon entering the building. The basic plan the architects drew up was to release the historic villa from the surrounding ensemble; a new atrium that guides the visitor around Lenbach’s residence accentuates this architectonic core. The second central consideration was to reroute the main access to the building via the museum plaza facing the Propylaea; it is from this side — from the Königsplatz subway station, from the central railway station, or across Königsplatz — that most visitors approach the museum. This change highlights the southern façade of the historic studio wing and the cubic shape of the new extension; conversely, visitors who have entered the museum enjoy a panoramic view across the forecourt toward the Propylaea and Königsplatz.
The marriage of old and new The new entranceway through a lobby that offers first glimpses of the garden leads the visitor into the atrium, which presents a striking view of Lenbach’s villa restored to its original appearance. The historic building constitutes the museum’s core. Above the bel étage furnished by Lenbach, the building contains several rooms dedicated to the museum’s educational and art outreach mission. The spacious lobby provides centralized and intuitive access to the various collection and exhibition galleries located from the ground floor up to the newly created second floor, as well as to service facilities such as the lecture hall, the museum shop, and the café and restaurant.
The new entrance connects the existing Lenbachhaus to the new wing designed by Foster + Partners, which relates harmoniously to Gabriel von Seidl’s building in terms of volume, color, and proportions. The façade design featuring brasscolored metal elements speaks its own language; it extends the existing structure in terms of color and is nonetheless a distinctive and unmistakably contemporary formal element. Brass-colored tubes are the defining feature of the completely new sections of the building; the section based on an underlying historic structure presents a series of concave panels, whereas existing structures that have been integrated into the new building are clad in flat sheets of metal. The same material is used throughout. This design also brings out the fact that the remodeling has allowed for the addition of a second floor on the western side of the ensemble, which was inserted beneath the pitched roofs of the original structure at the level of the clerestory.
Both upper floors will now be used exclusively to house collection galleries; located at the same height across all sections of the building, they feature barrier-free access throughout. In the old Lenbachhaus, providing access for all our visitors to all galleries was impossible due to the numerous short flights of stairs, and the reconstruction has allowed us to achieve this important goal.
A guidance system helps visitors find the museum’s various collections so that, rather than being compelled to follow a prescribed tour, they can decide for themselves what to see.
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