Ando’s familiar, concrete like silk, long stairs, ramps and light slits, characterize the building.
The Langen Foundation is located at the Raketenstation Hombroich, a former NATO base, in the midst of the idyllic landscape of the Hombroich cultural environment.
Visitors enter through a cut-out in the semicircular concrete wall, opening up the view to the glass, steel and concrete building.
A path, bordered by a row of cherry trees, guidevisitors around the pond to the entrance on the longitudinal side of the building.
The glass envelope, supported by steel girders, protects the perimeter around the 76 meter long, 10.8 meter wide and 6 meter high concrete core. Reflections in the glass skin and in the water of the shallow pond dissolve borders and communicate an impression of weightlessness.
The ticket office and museum shop break through the concrete core and connect with the northern side of the glass envelope, where the border between inside and outside can be experienced along its entire length. The polished concrete floor is inlaid with turquoise illuminated strips.
The building is composed of two architecturally distinct complexes: a long concrete structure within a glass envelope and, at a 45 degree angle, two parallel concrete wings buried six meters deep in the earth and protruding only 3.45 meters above it. A grand stairway between the two wings of the building leads back to ground level.
The long and narrow (43 x 5.4 meters) exhibition room in the concrete core, reserved for the Langen Foundation Japanese collection, receives daylight through linear light rails worked into the ceiling.
On the south side of building, between the concrete core and the glass envelope, the pathway descends slightly toward the mezzanine overlooking the 8 meter tall exhibition wings containing the Modern I and Modern II galleries.
The two galleries, each 436 square meters, have identical dimensions but appear very different.
In Modern I a concrete ramp takes up almost half of the space where as Modern II presents itself in pure size and monumentality.
The two galleries receive daylight through central narrow skylights with adjustable slats.
The Langen Foundation is a masterpiece composed of lines and a fascinating interplay between inside and outside, art and nature, massiveness and lightness. It is a constructed place that is not only an envelope for art but also exhibits itself.
The Hombroich Missile Base is part of the visionary project of collector Karl-Heinrich Müller to turn a “neglected corner of the earth” in North-Rhine Westphalia into a unique synthesis of art and nature. After the development of the Museum Insel Hombroich, he bought the 13 hectares of land of a former NATO base in 1994.
Not marked on any map, this area served defence purposes and the storage of cruise missile warheads and Pershing rockets. In 1992/93 it was mothballed as a result of the disarmament agreements between the NATO states and the former USSR.
The overall concept, developed by Karl-Heinrich Müller, Erwin Heerich, Oliver Kruse and Katsuhito Nishikawa between 1994 and 1995, was not to completely eradicate the history of the location but to provide it with a new face and purpose.
Military elements like barbed wire fences, spotlight systems and bullet-proof glass were removed. The halls, hangars, bunker systems, earth berms and observation tower were preserved, renovated and, in part, redesigned.
New buildings by Heerich and Nishikawa complemented the existing ensemble, as did sculptures by Heinz Baumüller, Mark di Suvero, and Eduardo Chillida, among others.
Tadao Ando’s big arch, today’s entrance to the Langen Foundation, was realized in 1998/99 as one of the first buildings serving as a portal to the missile base.