Herzog & de Meuron returns to Duisburg for MKM Museum Küppersmühle extension

Herzog & de Meuron returns to Duisburg for MKM Museum Küppersmühle extension

Tour the new extension at the MKM Museum Küppersmühle in Duisburg, Germany, a cultural hub courtesy of Herzog & de Meuron 

If you’ve come across the city of Duisburg (population about half a million, nestled among the hills and valleys of Rhineland), chances are it would have been for its industrial architecture heritage, or status as the world’s biggest inland port – or for its famed arts hub, the MKM Museum Küppersmühle, the centre for modern and contemporary art in Duisburg’s Inner Harbour and one of the most extensive private collections of German post-war art. And now, Swiss duo Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, the museum’s original architects, are back in town, celebrating the launch of their latest addition to Duisburg’s culture scene, Herzog & de Meuron’s new extension of the Küppersmühle.

A look back in MKM Museum Küppersmühle’s history

If you look at the majestic, brick structure housing the museum and get visions of the Tate Modern in London, there’s good reason. Duisburg’s Küppersmühle is also the result of the Swiss architecture studio’s skillful redesign of an existing industrial building – done around the same time too (the Tate launched in 2000 and the Duisburg project in 1999). The original structure on site was a grain mill, built in 1860 by leading local industrialist Wilhelm Vedder. This was replaced in 1908 by the complex of three buildings that makes up the museum today. Over the years a boiler house, a series of adjacent steel silos, and other buildings were added, until the facility closed down in the 1970s.

Herzog & de Meuron was first involved with the site in 1997, transforming the original complex into an art hub, aiming to give the campus a new lease of life as part of the city’s regeneration plans for this part of town (the masterplan was the work of Foster + Partners). The studio was called back again in 2013, appointed to create an extension to the impressive complex of historical buildings, kickstarting a new era for MKM Museum Küppersmühle.

dramatic triple height interior in Museum Küppersmühle Duisburg
Bridges across the former silos connect the old and new parts of the museum

The MKM Museum Küppersmühle extension

Respectful to the existing, orthogonal brick volumes on site and the wider setting, the architects created an addition that becomes a seamless part of the historical whole. ‘The new structure thus completes the existing museum complex in a visually appropriate way and forms a suitable conclusion to the row of buildings along the dock,’ they say. ‘At first glance it might seem as though the new building had always been there.’

Divided into three parts, the new addition contains exhibition halls, as well as utilities and art-handling facilities across five floors (one is underground) and a massing arrangement led by local planning guidelines that stipulate no building within 40m of the autobahn. Bridges through the existing silos connect the old and new parts – although these industrial features will serve more than one purpose as American artist James Turrell has created two permanent site-specific installations for them, which are planned to be revealed in 2022. Materials were chosen to complement and draw on the historical fabric. 

A striking, curved staircase connects all floors in the new section, and supports circulation flow throughout. At the same time, through its terracotta tone and textured concrete materiality, it echoes, together with the wider project, the overall character of the Küppersmühle ‘as a typical industrial facility of the 19th and 20th centuries’ – an approach that helps to establish this museum not only as a functional, modern home for the arts, but also as a considered piece of contemporary architecture. §

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