Architecture People & Places


Foster + Partners in Munich, Germany

Norman Foster designed a two-story addition, and major renovation of the existing 19th-century core of the Lenbachhaus Museum, in Munich, Germany. Photo: Nigel Young/ Foster + Partners

In Munich, Germany, the Lenbachhaus Museum has reopened with a major new golden addition, and extensive renovations designed by Foster + Partners. Originally built in 1891 as a studio and villa for the artist Franz von Lenbach, the Lenbachhaus Museum was gradually extended over the last century as its audience grew to some 280,000 annual visitors.

Section drawing. Image: BPR/ Foster+ Partners

To accommodate these growing numbers, the building's facilities and circulation have been significantly improved. A new building entrance was created and is served by a new piazza to the east of the museum. This move helped to reclaim the villa's courtyard garden as a place of contemplation, separate from the main circulation system.

Inside the atrium of the Lenbachhaus Museum. Photo: Nigel Young/ Foster + Partners

The new social heart of the building is a dramatic top-lit atrium, with ticket and information desks, access to a new temporary exhibition space on the ground floor, and a grand, cantilevered stair leading to the upper level galleries. This large-volume space incorporates a portion of the original villa wall and is intended to accommodate large-scale works of art.

Looking down Richard-Wagner Street. Photo: Nigel Young/ Foster + Partners

A 1972 extension was also removed to reveal the wall of the original villa, which has been sympathetically restored in ochre render. The building's different historical elements are then unified along the nearby Richard-Wagner Street by a new gallery pavilion, containing two levels of exhibition space.

Ground-floor plan drawing. Image: Foster + Partners

The new building was described by the firm as a "jewel box" for the treasures of the gallery. It is clad in golden metal tubes of an alloy of copper and aluminium, their color and form designed to complement the villa’s rich ochre hue and textured facades.

The villa's courtyard. Photo: Nigel Young/ Foster + Partners

The building's reopening ceremony occurred on May 7, 2013.

Project Details
  • Dates: 2002 to 2013
  • Site Area: Approx. 4,000 square meters (43,000 square feet)
  • Building Area: 12,328 square meters (132,700 square feet)
  • Program: 55+ exhibition spaces and galleries, atrium/orientation hall, shop, restaurant/cafe, lecture hall, historic villa, administration, conservation workshop, adult and children’s education center, cloakroom
  • Structure: concrete, steel, brick
  • Energy Use Intensity: not available
  • Lighting: Fully controllable LED lighting system.
  • Materials: External; TECU-Gold Aluminium/ copper alloy Internal; Timber floor; Bronze balustrades
  • Project cost: 59 million Euros 
  • LED Lighting cost: 4.3 million Euros
  • Art Installations: Wirbelwerk 2012 by Olafur Eliasson;  Lenbachhaus 2012 by Thomas Demand

A gallery space. Photo: Nigel Young/ Foster + Partners

Project Credits
  • Client: City of Munich, Cultural Department and Building Department
  • Architect: Foster + Partners Norman Foster
  • Design Team: Spencer de Grey David Nelson Stefan Behling Christian Hallmann Ulrich Hamann Klaus Heldwein Florian Boxberg Leonhard Weil Judith Kernt Henriette Hahnloser Eike Danz Diana Krumbein Simon Weismaier Christopher Von Der Howen Inge Tummers Jörg Grabfelder Katrin Hass Tillmann Lenz
  • Project Management: DU Diederichs Projektmanagement
  • Structural Engineer: Sailer Stepan & Partner GmbH
  • Mechanical Engineer: Ingenieurbüro Robert Ottitsch (HLS + RLT) & PEG GmbH (Elektro)
  • Quantity Surveyor: CBP Cronauer
  • Cost Consultant: Höhler + Partner
  • Landscaping: Burger Landschaftsarchitekten
  • Lighting Design: Ingenieurbüro Bamberger

Section drawing. Image: BPR/ Foster+ Partners

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