Peter Zumthor unveils design for Basel's Beyeler Foundation extension
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Peter Zumthor unveils design for Basel's Beyeler Foundation extension

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I want to create buildings that are loved. Having the chance to do so in Basel, the city of my youth, is a particular honour for me

Swiss architect Peter Zumthor has presented his designs for the extension of Renzo Piano’s Fondation Beyeler in Basel.

The CHF100m (US$101m, €92.2m, £78.1m) project will be constructed on the previously private land of the Iselin-Weber Park. It will see the addition of a simple service building for administration and deliveries, a transparent pavilion for events and a House for Art to display expanded collections of modern and contemporary art.

The latter appears monolithic and has a sculptural form – “as if hewn from a massive block,” according to the architect – and responds to the mature trees surrounding it.

Zumthor’s design concept is adapted to the village-like character of the Riehen municipality, and is intended to blend harmoniously into the natural environment. The new structures will create a subtle link between the two parks, designed by Jean-François Caillat in the early 19th century, doubling the museum’s outdoor public space.

Explaining his vision, Zumthor said: “I want to create buildings that are loved. Having the chance to do so in Basel, the city of my youth, is a particular honour for me.”

According to the directors of the foundation, the extension is required to allow for the organisation of cultural events and art education, and to offer more space for permanent collections of art in what is the most visited art museum in Switzerland.

Currently, cultural events have to take place in the galleries of Piano’s museum building, creating organisational and technical challenges and additional costs.

“Peter Zumthor brings great experience to the construction of cultural buildings and has the necessary sensitivity to build a museum of outstanding quality in this very special spot in the heart of Riehen,” said Sam Keller, the director of the Fondation Beyeler.

“The interaction between human beings, nature, art and architecture that has always characterised the Fondation Beyeler will be as successfully achieved as it was twenty years ago by Renzo Piano.”

The acquisition of the land and existing buildings, funding of the new building, and operating and maintenance costs for the first ten years is being privately financed. An amount of CHF 50m (US$50.5m, €46m, £39m) has already been committed.

An international jury composed of prominent figures from the worlds of art and design – including architects Jean Nouvel, Annabelle Selldorf and outgoing Tate director Sir Nicholas Serota – unanimously selected Zumthor to lead the project. He was chosen for his history of designing museum buildings, such as the Kunsthaus Bregenz, the Kolumba Kunstmuseum in Cologne and the forthcoming Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

The Fondation Beyeler is and has attracted over 6.2 million people from all continents since its inauguration in 1997.

An exclusive interview with Zumthor appeared in the Q1 2017 issue of CLADmag. Speaking about his desire to create emotional spaces, he said: “As an architect you have to follow the technical levels, the urbanistic levels and so on, but the most important is probably a beautiful unity of use, atmosphere, space. So that the kitchen of my mother looks the kitchen of my mother and not like something strange. It’s about the real thing. That’s what I go for.

“I don’t treat the profession of architecture as a profession of arranging and inventing forms. You don’t hear anything from me like that. These things I want to do need a form, and so I give them this form. I’m extremely sensitive to things which don’t work.”

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Swiss architect Peter Zumthor has presented his designs for the extension of Renzo Piano’s Fondation Beyeler in Basel.
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