A couple from Darmstadt were keen to exhibit part of their art collection in their own museum. The planned location on Darmstadt’s Mathildenhöhe Hill offers more than meets the eye.
The members of Mathildenhöhe artists’ colony lived and worked on the hill under the patronage of Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig von Hessen-Darmstadt from 1899 to 1914. At the artists’ first exhibition in 1901, the colony’s ideas were expressed in art, but also structurally in the form of houses and a workshop building.
Joseph Maria Olbrich designed a group of artists’ houses arranged symmetrically along a line leading up the slope towards the workshop building. Olbrich placed his own house opposite the workshop building to the east and that of painter Hans Christiansen to the west. Destroyed during the Second World War, Christiansen’s house was never rebuilt and the plot remained empty until it was selected as the site for the new museum in 2010.
Our design imagined a small structure in place of Christiansen’s house that would occupy the same space as the original but look completely different.
The arrangement of the Olbrich and Christiansen houses, slightly rotated in relation to the workshop building, goes back to Olbrich’s original design, which imposed a rigid symmetry on the whole complex.
The part of our proposed design for the museum that is visible above ground follows the original symmetrical concept in terms of both volume and orientation. By contrast, most of the exhibition space is set into the slope of Mathildenhöhe Hill and invisible from the outside.
What appears from the outside to be a relatively small structure boasts surprisingly generous proportions within, comprising a single large space that connects all the levels.
The open, airy feel of Mathildenhöhe Hill is mirrored inside the museum, where two windows and a roof terrace link the otherwise enclosed art collection to its surroundings.