Richard Meier & Partners Architects LLP

Museum for the Decorative Arts

Frankfurt am Main, Germany

1979 - 1985

The character of the surrounding environment had a decisive impact on the form of this building, not only in terms of the topography but also in respect of the local doppel villa topology. Designed as a part of a new cultural district on the banks of the river Main – they so called Museumsüfer – this arts museum was a transitional work in that it was part of the conversion of a residential quarter to public-institutional use.

The accommodation of the program within the available site enabled the remainder of the area to be treated as a park, open to the surrounding community, to Sachsenhausen in the south and to the city across the river in the north. Articulated pathways and vistas enabled the site to be reorganized in such a way as to overcome the barrier formed by the villas lining the Main River.

The skewed organization of the plan was based on two intersecting geometries, on an orthogonal grid deriving from the Villa Metzler and on a discrepant second grid taken from the alignment of the river. The Villa Metzler is incorporated into the new composition by being inscribed into an open quadrant of its 16 square orthogonal grid. This initial grid was then overlaid by a second grid of exactly the same size, but rotated 3.5 degrees to correspond with the embankment. The superimposition of these two networks generates the formal order of the work throughout.

The Villa Metzler’s basic dimensions and the proportions of the villa’s windows became the basis of the square metal panel module and fenestration of the new building.

The general organization of the museum space gives the work a didactic character, with the visitor proceeding counterclockwise through a prescribed series of spaces, outlining the history of European decorative art. Specific openings are framed in various ways so as to sustain a sense of discovery through different apertures, while always permitting the objects themselves to relate to the scale of their immediate environment.

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