Bündner Kunstmuseum

by | 23. Oct 2016

Cultural | Project

The exterior of the Bündner Kunstmuseum in Chur, Switzerland. Bündner Kunstmuseum, Barozzi/Veiga © 2016 Simon Menges

By Jennifer McMaster

Barozzi/Veiga’s Bündner Kunstmuseum forms an elegant extension to the Grisons Museum of Fine Arts in Switzerland. Crisp in design and compact in size, the building is a stark and simple reinterpretation of its heritage neighbor.

The Bündner Kunstmuseum is a tall, rectangular prism that commands its site in the center of Chur. Surrounded by a vast plaza, the building stands as a solitary volume amidst a cluster of historical buildings. In this context, the Bündner Kunstmuseum reads as a stoic and contemporary form – it is bold, unforgiving and unashamedly new.


The Bündner Kunstmuseum reads as an autonomous, contemporary building within a mixed context. Bündner Kunstmuseum, Barozzi/Veiga © 2016 Simon Menges

Yet, for a structure that is so immediately impressive, the Bündner Kunstmuseum is surprisingly sensitive in its reading of context and architectural lineage. Described by the architects as ‘an exercise of integration within an urban ensemble,’ the building slowly reveals itself as a considered reinterpretation of this place and its history.

The Bündner Kunstmuseum forms a companion to the existing gallery, which is contained within a grand, nineteenth-century house. Together, these two buildings – new and old – work in dialogue to form the new museum.


In many ways, the Bündner Kunstmuseum’s volume is an abstracted, simplified take on the adjacent heritage building. Bündner Kunstmuseum, Barozzi/Veiga © 2016 Simon Menges

Formally, Barozzi/Veiga borrow from the old to inform the new. In contrast to its warm, and classically familiar, neighbor, Barozzi/Veiga’s extension is a monolithic mass – proud, silent and subdued in its use of concrete. Yet, subtle gestures bring the pair together. For instance, the new base picks up on an existing datum line, tying the buildings into one another at street level.


The Bündner Kunstmuseum is clad in a decorative geometric tile, which gives the building an ordered, gridded appearance. Bündner Kunstmuseum, Barozzi/Veiga © 2016 Simon Menges

Above this, the Bündner Kunstmuseum is clad in an ornate, custom-made concrete tile. Each tile is pressed with inset squares, which reference an oriental pattern that relates to the museum’s origins. These elements act as contemporary ornament, giving the Bündner Kunstmuseum the quality of a measured, yet crafted, object.


The entrance lobby to the Bündner Kunstmuseum contains simple lines and natural light. Bündner Kunstmuseum, Barozzi/Veiga © 2016 Simon Menges

The new Bündner Kunstmuseum sits several storeys above ground and one below. A café and the permanent collection are contained in the old house, while the new extension holds temporary exhibitions and public functions. The entrance to the new building is through an oversized puncture, which leads visitors into an open space with a shop and ticket counter. A ceiling decorated with delicate fins of steel disperses light and adds texture to this space.


The staircase connecting the building is consistently grey. Bündner Kunstmuseum, Barozzi/Veiga © 2016 Simon Menges

Counterintuitively, the experience of the gallery begins by going downwards. A concrete staircase, lined with chunky steel handrails, guides the hand. Light is limited and the atmosphere is grey, grey, grey.


Moving into the gallery spaces, the palette changes from greys to whites. Bündner Kunstmuseum, Barozzi/Veiga © 2016 Simon Menges

Things lighten up in the galleries, which are neutral but serene. White rooms, with aggregate-flecked concrete floors, are arranged in a formal succession. Movement is linear and symmetrical, taking place around the central locus of the stair. This axial composition nods to the traditional layouts in the adjacent building.


The Bündner Kunstmuseum’s galleries maintain a ‘white box’ affect, allowing the art to be foregrounded. Bündner Kunstmuseum, Barozzi/Veiga © 2016 Simon Menges

Barozzi/Veiga’s interiors are quietly simplified, stripped of ornament and fuss. The galleries are spare and uncluttered, with room to wander and think. Detailing throughout is unobtrusive. The entrances to the toilets are barely noticeable, disguised behind flush, inset doors that only reveal themselves with a pencil-thin shadow line. Signage is minimal, used only when required.

The transition into the old building is via a high, slender stair, which lets in glowing light from above. Emerging into the nineteenth-century house, the deliberate contrasts adopted by Barozzi/Veiga are made even clearer. The lavish interiors and rich colors seem almost cacophonous after such a neutral backdrop.

But this is all part of a pairing which leads to an appreciation of both buildings. The vastness of the new galleries contrasts the intimacy within the original. Likewise, the cool, crisp new palette deliberately offsets the decorative, sumptuous old rooms.


The crisp, white interiors are a deliberate contrast to the more elaborate rooms in the older galleries. Bündner Kunstmuseum, Barozzi/Veiga © 2016 Simon Menges

Barozzi/Veiga’s Bündner Kunstmuseum is a proud partner to its existing companion. It takes the two basic elements which define both of these buildings – formal structure and ornament – and renders them to their most pure and elemental. In this way, the Bündner Kunstmuseum is at once elegant and ornate, contemporary and classical.


The ornate building exterior, which sits alongside its historical companion. Bündner Kunstmuseum, Barozzi/Veiga © 2016 Simon Menges


Site Plan. Bündner Kunstmuseum, Barozzi/Veiga © 2016 Barozzi/Veiga


Façade elevation. Bündner Kunstmuseum, Barozzi/Veiga © 2016 Barozzi/Veiga


Basement floor plan. Bündner Kunstmuseum, Barozzi/Veiga © 2016 Barozzi/Veiga


Ground floor plan. Bündner Kunstmuseum, Barozzi/Veiga © 2016 Barozzi/Veiga


Section. Bündner Kunstmuseum, Barozzi/Veiga © 2016 Barozzi/Veiga


ARCHITECTSchwander & Sutter Architekten
LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTPaolo Bürgi Landschaftsarchitekt