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Kolumba Museum

Cologne, Germany, Kolumba Museum, Outside view

The Kolumba Museum in Cologne (1997-2007) is one of the most recent and most notable projects of the Swiss architect Peter Zumthor. The building, constructed of quality materials, provides shelter to the extensive art collection and top of the arch diocese of Cologne, but also home to the ruins of a vast Gothic church.

The location where the museum is built in art historically particularly as the ground is a collage of the remains of several churches from different eras, all of which Zumthor has tried to integrate into its design. Half walls, blackened windows, crumbling foundations and a number of solitary vaults, recall that here the majestic late Gothic St. Kolumbakerk stood by the bombing in World War II was beaten to smithereens. Only a wooden Madonna remains so the story was untouched by the bombs and hope amid the smoldering debris. To commemorate this symbolic event was built in the same place a small octagonal chapel, "Madonna at the Ruins", designed by the Cologne architect Gottfried Bohm. Between 1973 and 1976, during archaeological excavations more extensive remains of several older churches were uncovered, and vaults filled with human bones.

All these elements are spared in the design of Zumthor, indeed they are proudly presented in a huge empty hall on the ground floor of the museum, a magical space where a sort of archaeological walk is disabled. A red footbridge zigzags along ruined walls, excavated crypt and the chapel of Bohm - all dimly lit relics from the two thousand year history of the Rhine City.
The new building encloses the architectural variety of terrain, and place two floors above. On this floor is located the collection of the Archdiocese. The rooms vary in height, light and atmosphere. The whole is put into an introverted shell slender pale gray bricks, specially developed for this project in Denmark. Some windows and walls of the original St. Kolumba contained in the outer wall, but otherwise it gives the facade from the street seen little evidence about the function of the building houses. Interestingly is the perforated line at the height of the second and third floors, the uniformity of the wall without breaking or frivolous to be frisky.

Sustainability is a key theme in the work of Zumthor and is also reflected in the Kolumba Art Museum. For example, the building is not connected to district heating: all rooms are heated by geothermal energy, with a large installation relieved of groundwater. Despite the application of these technological innovations, the museum is a modest, almost timeless building. At the opening of the museum was the architect a gibe at the much discussed 'Bilbao effect': the idea of a cultural institution as outgoing marketing icon, like the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao by Frank Gehry. Cologne is not about the commercial strength of the architect, the building or its collection, according Zumthor. "Here " he said, "people believe in the intrinsic value of art. You can feel that this project started inside, the art and location."