Set in Adorf’s historic centre, the new museum building occupies a site on the medieval town wall never previously built on. It sits between the Freiberger Gate – Vogtland’s only remaining town gate, which will continue to house the local history museum – and a historic half-timbered building with which it will form the new home for Germany’s largest collection of mother-of-pearl.

The design is inspired by the structure of the freshwater pearl mussel, which combines a rough outer shell and a contrastingly exquisite interior. The curvature of the outer wall and the board-formed finish of the concrete evoke the mussel’s shell while the water rilling down the façade and into a stream makes reference to the medium that gives it life.

When the freshwater pearl mussel has reached maturity, it attaches itself to the bed of a stream and filters nutrients from the water that flows past it. Adorf was a major centre of freshwater pearl mussel fishing in Europe at a time when their pearls – one in every 2000 shells – were highly prized and their shells used in the craft production of a host of everyday objects.

The town wall also shapes the look and feel of the interior of the Mother-of-Pearl Museum. Forming one wall of the patio that rises up through all three levels, it provides a visible reference to the place and its history.

Light falls through the glass-covered patio onto the town wall and into the foyer, making the old stonework visible from the outside.

Large parts of the wall that once protected medieval Adorf from unwelcome visitors are still standing today, shaping the look of the modern town.

The new build connects the various floors of the Freiberger Gate on one side and the old half-timbered building on the other. The tour begins on the top floor and leads down to the foyer. As they pass through the buildings, visitors can also take in the Local History Museum, housed in the Freiberger Gate.