Marbach Museum of Modern Literature, German Architecture Photo, Stirling Prize 2007
Museum of Modern Literature, Germany
Building at Marbach am Neckar, Germany
post updated 7 July 2021 ; 4 Oct 2007
Stirling Prize 2007 Winner
Dates built: 2002-06
Design: David Chipperfield Architects
Museum of Modern Literature Marbach am Neckar
The museum is located in Marbach’s scenic park, on top of a rock plateau overlooking the valley of the Neckar River. As the birthplace of the dramatist Friedrich Schiller, the town’s park already held the National Schiller Museum, built in 1903, and the Archive for German Literature, built in the 1970s.
Displaying artefacts from the extensive 20th century collection from the Archive for German Literature, notably the original manuscripts of Franz Kafka’s ‘The Trial’ and Alfred Döblin’s ‘Berlin Alexanderplatz’, the museum also provides panoramic views across and over the distant landscape.
Embedded in the topography, the museum reveals different elevations depending on the viewpoint. By utilising the steep slope of the site, terraces allow for the creation of very different characters – an intimate, shaded entrance on the brow of the hill facing the National Schiller Museum with its forecourt and park, and a grander, more open series of tiered spaces facing the valley below.
A pavilion-like volume is located on the highest terrace, providing the entrance to the museum. The interiors of the museum reveal themselves as one descends down through the loggia, foyer and staircase spaces, preparing the visitor for the dark timber-panelled exhibition galleries, illuminated only by artificial light due to fragility and sensitivity of the works on display. At the same time, each of these environmentally controlled spaces borders onto a naturally lit gallery, balancing views inward to the composed, internalized world of texts and manuscripts with the green and scenic valley on the other side of the glass.
A clearly defined material concept using solid materials (fair-faced concrete, sandblasted reconstituted stone with limestone aggregate, limestone, wood, felt and glass) gives the calm, rational architectural language a sensual physical presence.
Marbach Museum of Modern Literature info from David Chipperfield Architects 041007
Stirling Prize 2007 Shortlist
America’s Cup Building, Valencia, Spain: David Chipperfield Architects
Casa da Musica, Porto, Portugal: Office for Metropolitan Architecture with Arup-AFA
Dresden Station Redevelopment, Dresden, Germany: Foster + Partners
Modern Literature Museum, Marbach am Neckar, Germany: David Chipperfield Architects
The Savill Building, Windsor, England: Glenn Howells Architects
Young Vic Theatre, London SE1, England: Haworth Tompkins
Museum of Modern Literature – Building Information
Location: Marbach am Neckar, Germany
Architect: David Chipperfield Architects
Client: Deutsches Literaturarchiv Marbach
Site supervision: Wenzel + Wenzel
Project management: Drees + Sommer
Structural engineer: Ingenieurgruppe Bauen
Services engineer: Jaeger, Mornhinweg + Partner
Ingenieurgesellschaft / Ingenieurbüro Burrer + Deuring
Contract Value: 11.8m euro
Date of completion: Jun 2006
Gross internal area: 3,800 sqm
Following re-unification, texts of various well-known German authors which had previously been dispersed to east and west have now been brought together in this new museum. In a suitably commemorative manner the building forms a small Acropolis attached to the National Schiller Museum on a ridge overlooking the valley of the River Neckar.
The entrance sequence is brilliant. The visitor crosses an open terrace overlooking the valley, then negotiates a series of shallow steps to enter the generous portal formed in the colonnade, then enters through giant hardwood doors. A staircase descends to the collections with their required diminishing lighting levels.
It is at this moment of descent that the building shows its pedigree – a sense of a progression to somewhere beyond, combined with a rich but selective palette of materials and illuminated with subdued top lighting. The route concludes in the permanent collection. Here glass cases containing original manuscripts form a magical flickering landscape. There is a particular theatricality about this space, as though the reflections, refractions and multiple shadows from the small intense lights collectively represent the soul of the German imagination.
There are many things to praise about this building – the architect’s control and discrimination in the choice of materials has by now become a signature but above all it is in the handling of the ‘difficult whole’ that the building excels. The external pre-cast concrete arcading (or is it a screen or even a cage?) forming the entrance pavilion is also applied to the plinth on the east side.
This unexpectedly produces a monumental elevation cut into the hillside, which simultaneously democratises the acropolis giving equal status to pavilion and plinth. The same measure and interval of the vertical structure is then to be found forming the soffit to the beams to the galleries inside…. Truly a tour de force.
Since the end of the war Germany has been sensitive to matters concerning the neo-classical in architecture. Had it been submitted a decade or two earlier it would surely have been eliminated for its formal manner. It is encouraging that with time, more even-handed attitudes have prevailed.
Marbach Museum of Modern Literature images / information from David Chipperfield Architects 2007
David Chipperfield design
Marbach Museum – Client: Deutsches Literaturarchiv Marbach
International Architecture Award : Museum of Modern Literature nominated in 2008
Location: National Schiller Museum, Marbach am Neckar, Germany
Architecture in Germany
German Architectural Designs – chronological list
Buildings by David Chipperfield in Germany – Selection
Neues Museum Rebuilding, Berlin
picture : David Chipperfield Architects
Gesellschaftshaus Palmengarten, Frankfurt am Main
drawing © David Chipperfield Architects
Gesellschaftshaus Palmengarten Frankfurt
Empire Riverside Hotel, Hamburg
Killesberg Urban Quarter, Stuttgart
Folkwang Museum, Essen
Am Kupfergraben 10, Berlin
Townhouse O-10, Berlin
Stirling Prize 2007
Stirling Prize 2007 Shortlist
Valencia Architecture, Spain
Casa da Musica, Porto, Portugal
Dresden Station Redevelopment, Dresden, Germany
The Museum of Modern Literature, Marbach am Neckar, Germany
Savill Building, Windsor, England
Young Vic, London, England
Comments welcome re Marbach Museum of Modern Literature