The firm has designed a substantial but humble extension for a German museum known for its architectural contribution to the industrial heritage of its inland port location.

Key features

Museum Küppersmühle (MKM) opened as a museum for contemporary art in 1999 in a former grain mill which had closed down 27 years prior. The 19th-century building was transformed by architecture studio Herzog & de Meuron to house a private collection of post-war German art comprising over 2,000 works of painting, sculpture and photography.

In 2013, the practice was re-appointed to create an extension to the building which would provide an additional 2,500-sq-m of exhibition space. Externally, the new structure ‘completes’ the mammoth building, taking cues from the mass and red-brick materiality of three existing warehouses to merge organically. Inside, the extension’s ‘white box’ interior delivers 36 brightly lit contemporary exhibition rooms. The new building links to the existing mill via two bridges (at levels one and two) that cut through the historic steel grain silos, which have been refurbished as part of the extension works, creating a true integration between the two buildings both physically and as part of the visitor experience.

Frame’s take

The success of this project is pinned on Herzog & de Meuron’s ability to transform heritage spaces for modern uses. The monumental grain silos now link the two areas of the building together to create an uninterrupted access point for visitors between the old and new – to quite literally walk through the building’s history from the present to the past. Opening this previously unseen area of the building to the public will allow visitors to feel more connected with the heritage of the site. 

By contrasting the raw exterior character of the 1860s building with a crisp, modern ‘white box’ interior, the extension pays respect to the historic aesthetic of the original architecture while providing a building that will continue to serve the museum’s expanding collection. Neither element feels overpowering. The two components work together like a sparkling jewel inside a treasure box; either piece as important as the other working in conjunction to create the whole.