In 2006 a series of pre-competition analyses were held on the subjects of urban planning, architecture, and the preservation of architectural heritage/archaeology, among others, while 2007 saw the focus shift to the grounds of the extension and practical preparations for the competition. The competition itself, which began with an open invitation to take part in the pre-qualification round, kicked off with a briefing for the 20 teams selected (architects, landscape architects, civil engineers) on 7 April 2008. On 7 November 2008 the jury presided over by Walter B. Kielholz and moderated by Prof. Carl Fingerhuth declared the project submitted by David Chipperfield Architects the winner of the competition to design an extension to the Kunsthaus Zürich.
Briefing of the 20 teams participating in the architectural competition
All participating teams, from Switzerland, Europe and farther afield, attended a briefing at the Kunsthaus Zürich on 7 April 2008. Following words of welcome from the entire Steering Committee, in which the project was considered from various points of view, the teams received the requisite documentation. The central, binding document is the Competition Brief, which describes the New Kunsthaus in terms of its artistic contents (Preamble and Chapter D), provides key information on general site conditions (Chapter C) and sets out the basic points of the process (Chapters A and B). The text of the brief, which is available in English and German, is binding on the course of the competition. The event was rounded out with tours of the Kunsthaus, the competition perimeter and Heimplatz, as well as through the Bührle Collection.
The New Kunsthaus - vision, content concept, space-allocation plan
Capter D sets out reflections and requirements on the part of the client and future operator of the new structure, the Kunsthaus Zürich. It proposes an artistic vision and a concept, both based on the institution’s history. In conclusion, practical remarks are made on the extension’s spatial design. The chapter thus follows the project’s basic approach: ‘from the contents to the envelope’.
Gymnasia/garden struck from inventory
It is necessary to strike two gymnasia on the future grounds of the Kunsthaus extension from the inventory of monuments to be protected, so as to ensure the architects the room to manoeuvre required to meet the complex demands of the location and of their assignment. The Heritage Society has appealed the motion to strike the gymnasia from the inventory. Its counter-proposal, however, which calls for a subterranean museum or for another location altogether, is unsatisfactory from both the urban-planning and the operational point of view. The project team has stated its position in a communiqué released by the city of Zurich. The Kunsthaus extension will allow exhibition planners and conservators to respond to demands on the part of the viewing public in a contemporary fashion and to promulgate art appreciation that unites all of the various epochs. In order to serve the public good in this way, these various figures will depend upon a link between the new and existing buildings. Banning natural light from the museum’s interior would mean breaking with a central characteristic of the Kunsthaus Zürich as designed by its first builders, Karl Moser, the Pfister brothers, and Erwin Müller. The museum’s glass rooftops, now restored after almost 100 years in place, are a defining feature of the ensemble. Artists, too, continue to work by natural light, and their work is shown to best effect under similar circumstances. The operational reasons for choosing Heimplatz as the extension’s location are also telling. It makes no economic sense either to maintain a series of warehouses or to continuously truck works of art back and forth between various locations, to say nothing of the security risks involved. The new museum’s infrastructure must be designed in such a way as to produce synergies – as for example in the use of workshops or restoration studios. And as for urban planning – the university district master plan, which includes the extension grounds, calls for maintaining and expanding green spaces while at the same time increasing density. For this reason, the project already comprises an art garden, as well as maintaining sufficient distance from the cantonal school on the upper end of the grounds, which is under protection as a monument. The redesign of Heimplatz in keeping with urban planning ideals and the erection of a visible ‘gateway of the arts’ is only possible above-ground. Finally, last but not least, the Kunstgesellschaft is keeping the needs of its public in mind. The physiological effect of underground rooms – the sensation of imprisonment, the loss of orientation etc. – are deleterious to the experience of art. The Heritage Society would have us go underground. Art and human beings both, however, belong in the light.
The building’s context in Zurich’s urban fabric: the university district master plan
The Kunsthaus extension conforms with the University District/Central Zurich development plan. The project will be among the first elements of the plan to be realized.