Basel's leading cultural destination, the Kunstmuseum, has seen several moves and expansions since its very first home, set up with the Basilius Amerback art collection in the 17th century. In more recent times, it moved to its current location – the building on St Alban-Graben – in 1936, which was consequently extended once in 1980.
Still, the art museum was slowly outgrowing its space, and a new wing soon became necessary to cover the needs of a growing collection and the thriving museum's requirements for different ways to present art. Enter Swiss architects Christ & Gantenbein, who masterminded the museum's latest expansion. This would not only allow the creation of space to breathe in the original buildings, but also allow for further gallery space as well as valuable storage surface.
Its sleek contemporary form is now located across the street from the main building, connected to it via an underground passage, its volume cutting a contemporary figure clad in grey brick outside, and marble, concrete and oak inside.
It was one of the architects' key aims to design a building that creates a dialogue with the old Kunstmuseum. 'The idea was that it should enter into a dialogue with the main building; not to outshine it, but to enhance and empower it', they explain.
Practical elements, such as a loading bay for precious deliveries, were keenly incorporated into the new design. A visitor-friendly ticketing and cloakroom services, as well as multipurpose event spaces, such as a large foyer, were part of the new building too, in order to cater for events, performances, and education and outreach programs.
The museum's newest extension – and Basel's latest architectural landmark – is now open to the public. It will host temporary shows as well as exhibitions from the permanent collections.