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Lenbachhaus Museum Redesigned by Foster + Partners

Here is the beautifully designed Lenbachhaus Museum by Foster + Partners.


Information provided by Foster + Partners
The Museum’s historic buildings have been carefully restored and the exhibition spaces augmented by a spectacular new wing, which provides an ideal environment for viewing the magnificent ‘Blue Rider’ collection. As well as radically improving the buildings’ environmental performance, the remodelling has created a new entrance and social spaces, including a restaurant, terrace, education facilities and a dramatic full-height atrium, where the old is articulated within the new.



Built in 1891 as a studio and villa for the artist Franz von Lenbach, the Lenbachhaus Museum has been gradually extended over the last century. However, its buildings were in need of renewal and the museum lacked the facilities to cater to a growing audience of 280,000 people a year. Redefining circulation throughout the site, the project has transformed a complex sequence of spaces of different periods into a unified, legible museum that is accessible and open to all.



Peeling away the unnecessary historical accretions, a 1972 extension has been removed to reveal the wall of the original villa, which has been sympathetically restored in ochre render. The different historical elements are then unified along Richard-Wagner Street by a new gallery pavilion, containing two levels of exhibition space. The new building is intended as a ‘jewel box’ for the treasures of the gallery – it is clad in metal tubes of an alloy of copper and aluminium, their colour and form designed to complement the villa’s rich ochre hue and textured facades.


Inside the new building, a sequence of intimate galleries display the Museum’s internationally-renowned ‘Blue Rider’ collection of early twentieth-century Expressionist paintings, echoing the domestic scale of their original setting in the villa Lenbach. As many of the works of art were painted in ‘plein-air’, indirect natural light has been deliberately drawn into the upper level galleries to create the optimum environment for their display.

A new entrance has been created adjacent to the restaurant, accessed via a new landscaped piazza to the east of the museum – this move reclaims the courtyard garden, turning it from a pedestrian thoroughfare into a tranquil space for visitors. The restaurant is open outside of the Museum’s opening hours and its seating continues outside, helping to enliven the surrounding streets and attracting new visitors into the galleries.

The new social heart of the building is a dramatic top-lit atrium, with ticket and information desks, access to a new temporary exhibition space on the ground floor and a grand, cantilevered stair to the upper level galleries. Clearly articulating the old within the new, its impressive volume incorporates the ochre exterior wall of the original villa and is scaled to accommodate large-scale works of art. The Museum commissioned the artist Olafur Eliasson for a site specific work titled Wirbelwerk. During the day sunlight washes the white walls via a long, slender opening at roof level and horizontal louvres cast changing patterns of light and shade within the space.



As well as repairing the fabric of the existing buildings, one of the main aims of the project has been to radically improve the museum’s environmental performance. A water-based heating and cooling system within the floors has been implemented – using significantly less energy than an air based heating, this represents an innovative step in a gallery context. Rainwater is also collected and recycled and lighting has been replaced and upgraded with low-energy systems.

Facts and Figures

Munich, Germany

Client: City of Munich,
Cultural Department,
Building Construction

Appointment: 2002
Construction Start: 2009
Completion: 2013

Site Area: Approx. 4,000m²
Area (Gross): 12,328m²

More than 55 exhibition spaces and galleries with a range of lighting systems combining LED and natural light, atrium orientation hall, shop, restaurant/cafe, lecture hall, historic villa, administration, conservation workshop, adult and children’s education centre, cloakroom

Art Installations:
‘Wirbelwerk’ 2012 by Olafur Eliasson
‘Lenbachhaus’ 2012 by Thomas Demand


Main structure new parts concrete and steel (roof of entrance hall) Old parts brick. Facade TECU (new parts) and render (old parts)

Natural daylight use maximised in upper galleries and circulation spaces
LED lights in all public spaces
Heating and cooling integrated into the walls and floors
Use of natural ground water for cooling and heating
Use of rainwater for toilets

LED lights – first installation of LED lighting used extensively in an art museum. Fully controllable lighting with exceptionally wide range of settings in order to display works in optimum conditions. Energy efficient.

External: TECU-Gold Aluminium/copper alloy
Internal: Timber floor
Bronze balustrades

Project cost: 59 million Euros
LED Lighting: 4.3 million Euros


Photography Credit: Nigel Young_Foster + Partners
Visualization Credit: Foster + Partners
Find more Credits for the project here

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