The new extension to the Städel Museum complements the garden wing (designed by the architects von Hoven and Heberer) and the west wing annex (Peichl) to form a configuration of buildings enclosing the garden area. This area of green is, however, still accessible and can be enjoyed from both the Festival Hall and from the street.
The front garden zone along the road with its wealth of mature trees is punctuated by an opening which establishes a visual correlation both to the extension building as well as into the courtyard garden itself. Green ‘carpets of plants’ with birch and robinia alternate with the light-coloured gravel, and sculptures – as well as seating – ‘furnish’ the space.
The extension building is attached ‘head on’ to the main exhibition floor in the historical garden wing and forms a bridge-like, single-storeyed connecting volume. The principal corpus of the extension is a narrow, three-storeyed block lying parallel to the Academy of Fine Arts and the garden wing, docking onto the west wing at right angles. The volume of the new building largely maps out the route to be followed through the interior space.
Visitors access the new extension via the wide, existing main staircase and the garden wing. The ‘head’ of the new building is formed by the entrance area to the east, starting with a ‘distribution and orientation’ space which latches onto the garden wing. One of the possible tour routes leads from here up into the exhibition rooms on the second floor, via the west stairs to the art sections on the first floor and back to the ‘head’ again, to the Garden Room and the exhibition spaces on the ground floor. The Garden Room has been conceived as an art café; it is here that internal and external spaces, urban and garden areas interact, and it is here that the delights of art and coffee can be enjoyed.
The exhibition rooms are reserved in design: smoked oak parquet floors, smooth plastered and painted walls and ceilings with fluorescent lighting create a restrained background for the works of art. Crystaline, glazed oriel-style windows of varying depths serve as points of orientation for visitors moving from room to room, as well as relaxation zones. The exhibition rooms on the three floors in the main building corpus have been designed to be used in a variety of ways, especially with regard to the juxtaposition of individual pieces in the museum’s collection with groups of works loaned from private collections. This is facilitated by spanning the interior spaces of the building without columns and integrating ventilation ducts in the exterior walls. In addition, a lofty ceiling height creates generously proportioned spatial combinations.
The load-bearing structure of the extension building is of concrete. The façade cladding of rhythmically folded stainless steel sheeting protects the layers of insulation and mirrors the sky, the historic buildings and the trees countless times. The building corpus captures and plays with light, and establishes a presence through the multifaceted reflection of its surroundings while at the same time creating a sense of space and distance to existing museum buildings.