The Museum der Kulturen Basel goes back to the middle of the nineteenth century. Replacing the Augustinian monastery on the Münsterhügel, the classicist building by architect Melchior Berri opened in 1849. In 1917, an extension by architects Vischer & Söhne was added. Finally, a second extension was projected by Herzog & de Meuron in 2001. Modifications would include an entrance especially for the Museum and a new roof, thereby giving it a new identity.
Consisting of irregular folds clad in ceramic pieces, the roof resonates with the medieval roofscape in which it is embedded while functioning at the same time as a clear sign of renewal in the heart of the neighborhood. The steel framework of the folded roof allows for a column-free gallery underneath, an expressive space that forms a surprising contrast to the quiet, right-angled galleries on the floors below.
Now, The courtyard, in its patchwork setting of the backs of medieval buildings, has now become an extension of the Münsterplatz. Part of the courtyard has been lowered and an expansive, gently inclined staircase leads down to the Museum entrance.
The weighty, introverted impression of the building, initially concealing its invaluable contents, is reinforced by the façades, many of whose windows have been closed off, and by the spiral-shaped construction for the hanging vegetation mounted under the eaves of the cantilevered roof above the new gallery. Hanging plants and climbing vines lend the courtyard a distinctive atmosphere and, in concert with the roof, they give the Museum a new identity. In this way, the courtyard has become a social meeting place for all kinds of Museum activities and celebrations.
The hexagonal tiles that cover the whole extension of the roof, some of them including three-dimensional facets, form a vibrating pattern that refracts the light even when the skies are overcast.
The ceramic pieces, manufactured by m&r Manufaktur, were produced on behalf of AGROB BUCHTAL. The museum tiles, which were crafted in the same productions process (baking and glazing) as the cathedral tiles were, have an irregular geometry and a blackish-green color that enhances the zigzagging profile of the cover. The changes in light and temperature alter the color of the tiles; the look of the roof can, at times, range from a glossy black to scintillating sheets of facetted silver. Adding to the visual impact, the roof is not uniformly tiled; the holes in the pattern are set back, matte, and offer a visual counterpoint to the glamour of the tile.
Museum der Kulturen
Associate: Martin Fröhlich
Project Architect: Mark Bähr
Michael Bär, Béla Berec (Model), Giorgio Cadosch, Gilles le Coultre, Piotr Fortuna, Ines Huber, Volker Jacob, Jürgen Johner (Associate), Hamit Kaplan, Beatus Kopp, Laura Mc Quary, Severin Odermatt, Nina Renner, Nicolas Venzin, Thomas Wyssen
General Planning: ARGE GP MKB
Construction Management: Proplaning AG Architekten
Civil Engineering, Traffic Planning: Rapp Infra AG
Structural Engineering: ZPF Ingenieure
HVAC Engineering: Waldhauser Haustechnik AG
Plumbing Engineering: Aqua Planing
Electrical Engineering: Herzog Kull Group AG
Facade / Roofing Consulting: Emmer Pfenninger Partner AG
Ceramic Pieces: Agrob Buchtal / m&r Manufaktur GmbH
Landscape Design: Rapp Infra AG
Building Physics: Zimmermann + Leuthe GmbH
Lighting: Mati AG
Iwan Baan (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14)
20 Münsterplatz, 4051 Basel, Switzerland