Projects   Project Portfolio – February 2007
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Museum of Modern Literature

Marbach am Neckar, Germany
David Chipperfield Architects

David Chipperfield Architects combines Modernism and Classicism with a reductive clarity in the new modern literature museum in Marbach, Germany  

Photo © Duccio Malagamba

By Suzanne Stephens

The hauntingly austere Literaturmuseum der Moderne (Museum of Modern Literature) in Marbach, Germany, attains a purity of form employing both Modern and Classical architectural precedents. Interestingly, this spare, rectilinear facility, devoted to enhancing Germany’s cultural patrimony, was designed by a British architect, David Chipperfield. While Chipperfield’s reputation is solidly Modernist, it is ironic that the scheme he developed with his project architect, Alexander Schwarz, for the literature museum manifests Classical impulses at the very moment in architectural culture when a formidable divide separates unreconstituted Modernists and diehard Classicists. Instead, the design harks back to Germany’s own Modernist heritage.

The client, the German Archive of Literature, had decided it needed a new structure to display manuscripts and first edition books of the modern era in Germany, with a goal of attracting a larger public than scholars and professionals. The Modern Literature Museum would form the third component of a unique compound centered around the National Schiller Museum, a neo-Baroque schloss designed by Ludwig Eisenlohr and Carl Weigle in 1903 to honor Friedrich von Schiller, the eminent literary figure who was born in Marbach in 1759. A separate research and collections center, the German Archive, a contorted, craggily Brutalist-Modern affair, was added in 1973 by Jörg and Elisabeth Kiefner and Wolfgang Lauber for a site just to the north of the Schiller Museum.

The entire complex sits in a parklike setting overlooking the Neckar River—a pastoral landscape, except for some industrial development. Since the Schillerhohe, as it is called, includes housing for researchers built in the 1990s and a civic hall erected in the 1950s for Schiller events, the conglomeration of variegated architecture did not encourage any futile gestures on the part of architects to tie the whole together with a certain style. Discretion clearly seemed to be the most appropriate response. Instead, the challenge for Chipperfield lay within: the 20th- and 21st-century books and manuscripts to be displayed were not as visually magnetic as, say, a museum installation of large oil paintings or marble sculptures. On top of that, the objects had to be housed in dimly lit (50 lux) spaces to protect them from daylight.

Given a 75,440-square-foot site, the architects came up with a temple-on-a-podium scheme, where the base would contain six exhibition galleries, totaling 10,763 square feet. Although the parti may remind some of Mies van der Rohe’s National Gallery in Berlin, where a crystalline glass-and-steel exhibition pavilion sits atop a base of windowless galleries, at Marbach the lower level galleries are revealed as the hill slopes down to the south and west.

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the People


David Chipperfield Architects
Gesellschaft von Architekten mbH
Joachimstraße 11
10119 Berlin
Tel: +49 30 280 170-0
Fax: +49 30 280 170-15

Architect of record:
David Chipperfield / Alexander Schwarz

Site Supervision:
Wenzel + Wenzel, Karlsruhe
Matias Wenzel with Roland Göppel

Bernhard Eggert, Ulla Ittensohn, Holger Weinbach, Isabell Finke, Jeanine Moline-Brehm, Corina Wacker

Services Engineer(s):
Jaeger, Mornhinweg + Partner Ingenieurgesellschaft, Stuttgart: Ernst Göppel, Wolfgang Klein, Stefanie Klose

IBB Burrer + Deuring Ingenieurbüro GmbH, Ludwigsburg; Siegmund Burrer, Otto Riedel

Structural Engineer(s):
Ingenieurgruppe Bauen, Karlsruhe
Josef Seiler, Gerhard Eisele, Markus Filian

Project Management:
Drees & Sommer Projektmanagement und Bautechnische Beratung, Stuttgart: Dierk Mutschler, Andreas Schele, Kerstin Schwan

Model Building:
Rüdiger Hammerschmidt, Berlin

Exhibition Design:
Gestaltungsbüro element, Basel

Media Planning:
iart interactive ag, Basel

Lighting Planning:
Mati AG, CH-Adliswil


Christian Richters
+49 251 277 447

the Products

Structural system:
Leonard Weiss GmbH, Göppinghen
Tel: 07161 602-0
Fax: 07161 602-1224

XB Buchenrieder GmbH & Co. Beton-Systembau KG
Altdorf, Germany
Tel: 0871 93301-32
Fax: 0871 93301-35

Züblin Spezialtiefbau GmbH, Stuttgart
Tel: 0711 7883-466
Fax: 0711 7883-273

Steel/metal construction:
Stahl- und Metallbau Beck GmbH
Cleebronn, Germany
Tel: 07135 97410-0
Fax: 07135 97410-2

Vereinigte Holzbaubetriebe GmbH
Memmingen, Germany
Tel: 08331 9464-0
Fax: 08331 9464-19

Cabinetwork and Custom Woodwork:
Friedrich Hanselmann KG Möbel und Innenausbau, Neuweiler
Tel: 07055 9282-0

Dry Construction Work:
EschgfällerGmbH, Ludwigsburg
Tel: 07141 2239-0
Fax: 07141 2239-99

Masonry: Schön + Hippelein Natursteinwerke
Satteldorf, Germany
Tel: 07951 498-0
Fax: 07951 498-98

Heating and Plumbing:
KWK - Kälte Wärme Klima Ing.
H. Wurster GmbH & Co. KG, Lauffen
Tel: 07133 97497-0
Fax: 07133 97497-49

Mechanical Services:
Sauter Elektrotechnik GmbH, Bretten
Tel: 07252 920-0
Fax: 07252 920-28

Roof Sealing:
B.M. Dach + Abdichtung GmbH
Asperg, Germany
Tel: 07141 9748980
Fax: 07141 660313

Fritztechnologie GmbH, Murr
Tel: 07144 82335-0

Lindner Holding
Arnstorf, Germany
Tel: 08723 20-0
Fax: 08723 20-2665

Floor Paving:
Estrich Benirschke e.K.
Göppingen, Germany
Tel: 07161 14094
Fax: 07161 29979

Schnabel GmbH & Co. Ludwigsburg

Elektro Schlagenhauf GmbH, Ellwangen
Tel: 07961-891-0

Stricker Aufzüge GmbH
Backnang, Germany
Tel: 07191 3681-0
Fax: 07191 3681-25

Ventilation System:
Möhrlin GmbH, Quies
Tel: 034602 401-0
Fax: 034602 401-199

Mechanical Services:
M+W Zander Holding AG, Stuttgart
Tel: 0711 8804-0
Fax: 0711 8804-1309

Fischer Garten- und Landschaftsbau
Kornwestheim, Germany
Tel: 07154 2501
Fax: 07154 2505

Mabau GmbH
Ravensburg, Germany
Tel: 0751 79130-0
Fax: 0751 79130-30

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