Kunsthalle / Journal #3 / Rethinking the museum

Rethinking the museum: Opening the door to a different museum experience  // Kunsthalle Mannheim doesn’t seek to be a traditional institution of knowledge. Instead, it aspires to become a vibrant place for people to come together and experience the museum. And this is nothing new: As early as 1913, the founding director of Kunsthalle Mannheim had the same idea, writing about his plans for a new, temple-like building on Friedrichsplatz, which was never built: “The building has to be something splendid, liberating even. The hall is open to every member of the public and everyone will want to meet their friends there. This ‘city hall’ will fulfil the same role as the Greek agora, adapted to the needs of the times.”
Employing the vocabulary of modern design, the innovative museum architecture at the famous water tower makes this historic vision a reality. We are calling it “city within a city.” We are reclaiming the museum as an urban element, extending it into the cityscape. Our vision is to create a public place that is accessible and open to all. We are taking our place within the diverse buzz of activity that makes up the city. We are bringing works of art together with the goal of helping us live.
With its cubic shapes, the new building is conceived as an homage to Mannheim, the baroque “city of squares.” Huge glass windows create transparent passages between the interior and exterior. The Kunsthalle acts as a giant display filled with artworks, awakening curiosity. Flooded with natural light, the atrium will become a central space for people of all generations and cultures to feel welcome without paying an entrance fee. From here, the city of art unfolds into a series of passageways, bridges, and terraces leading to the exhibition halls.
Urban principles open doors. We start by catering to what our visitors are accustomed to and expect, then encourage them to form new ideas and view things in a different light. The new building is rooted in everyday cosmopolitan life: diverse, dynamic, and unpredictable. Nevertheless, the unique atmosphere of an art city opens up new spaces for creativity and places to retreat to in order to refuel both emotionally and mentally. Visitors will be transformed from mere observers to active participants in their museum experience, both individual and shared.

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