The Kunstmuseum Basel’s new building redefines a prominent location in the heart of the Basel. The new and enlarged museum consists of two buildings that together form a unified presence in the urban space. They are in direct communication with each other across the street that runs between them. Each floor of the new building has two exhibition tracts connected vertically by the monumental central staircase.
Together with the foyer zones, the staircase describes a free and expressive figure in space. By contrast, the gallery suites as such are structured by right angles. They are larger and hence more flexible than those in the old building, while still hewing to classical expectations of what museum spaces should be like: serene and restrained, agreeably proportioned, and made of timeless materials.
The façades are gray brick walls that exude the timeless and archaic air of an ancient ruin. Like the main building’s façades, those of the new building hint at classical architecture’s standard tripartite order of base, middle, and capital. This order is visualized through the brickwork’s different shades of gray as well as a frieze executed as a delicate relief.
The frieze, in its archetypal form, has always been part of the traditional architectural canon, but in the form it takes here it represents something quite new: sunk into the grooves of the frieze blocks are strips of LEDs that illuminate the hollows between the bricks, shedding an indirect light into the surrounding urban space.
The result is a visually stimulating effect as the archaic-looking masonry begins to shine or, at a lower power setting, to glow. Thus, while the new building does indeed speak the same language as its counterpart, the story it tells is a different and novel one..