The Kolumba Museum situated in Cologne, Germany, is a remarkable work of Swiss architect Peter Zumthor, a Pritzker Prize laureate. The city was almost destroyed in World War II, the museum houses the Roman Catholic Archdiocese’s collection of art which spans more than a thousand years.
Zumthor’s design display of mastery and sensitivity, the architect manages to fuse the ruins of a destroyed Catholic church, with modern, sober and minimalist architecture, and highly sensitive to the theme of the works it houses: religious art.
”They [the Archdiocese] believe in the inner values of art, its ability to make us think and feel, its spiritual values. This project emerged from the inside out, and from the place,” explained Zumthor at the museum’s opening. This icon, called “the Madonna of the Ruins” was considered to be a symbol of hope during the painful and difficult years of the post-war reconstruction.
Zumthor’s work is known for the mindful of the use of the materials, and specifically their construction details. In this project has used grey brick to unite the fragments of the site. These fragments include the remaining pieces of the Gothic church, stone ruins from the Roman and medieval periods, and German architect Gottfried Böhm’s 1950 chapel for the “Madonna ofthe Ruins.”
The notion that our work is an integral part of what we achieve takes us to the very limits our musings about the value of a work of art.”
Peter Zumthor won the competition with an ambitious and humble idea at the same time: the building completely surrounds the ruins of the church, in fact it merges the churche into the museum while using the upper level and a side wing to house the exhibit areas. The facade of grey brick integrates the remnants of the church’s facade into a new face for the contemporary museum. The texture of thin gray brick, handmade by Tegl Petersen of Denmark, frams the remains of the old chapel achieving a remarkable integration between new and old. Articulated with perforations, the brick work allows diffused light to fill specific spaces of the museum.
The museum includes 16 different exhibition rooms and, at the heart of the building, a secret garden courtyard, place for reflection.
The exhibition area of these galleries has large windows from where the architect frames some stunning views of the surrounding cityscape.