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How turn a highrise office building into a museum exhibition space for the presentation of contemporary art? This was the question Kuehn Malvezzi found themselves confronted with as their starting point for the interior design of a floor of the TaunusTurm in Frankfurt’s financial district built by the real-estate developer Tishman Speyer and the Commerz Real AG. The space has been made available to the MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt as an annex for a term of fifteen years and opened October 17th 2014.
The Situation at the Outset
In accordance with the original use of the space as an office area, the plans had provided for suspended ceiling constructions and elevated floors. The almost entirely connected floor space was divided along the lines of a clearly defined office grid; seventy-five percent of its exterior surfaces were glazed. Superficially seen, these conditions were inconsistent with an adequate presentation of art.
The Basic Conversion
The architectural intervention conceived by Kuehn Malvezzi was not aimed at negating or concealing the spatial parameters but rather at constructively working with the given situation – which meant revealing the existing structure of the building and creating the basis for the envisaged exhibition context. The necessary basic structures were reduced to a minimum, the elevated floors and the suspended ceilings were removed in favor of maximum ceiling height. Exposing the spatial parameters such as windows, supports, girders, and utility service shafts made the space structurally transparent. Necessary technical elements like lighting and ventilation systems were not retouched but laid as visible parts of the space’s structure.
The installation of a light ceiling as a comprehensive structure of bars ensures an adequate general illumination (fluorescent tubes) as well as the right accentuation for the exhibits (spotlights) so that different exhibition requirements can be flexibly fulfilled. Slot bar diffusers subtly integrated above the exhibition walls provide the necessary air conditioning. Thanks to their matching colors, the technical elements appear as parts of the basic structure so that visitors perceive them as subdued background installations. The technology could thus be incorporated as a natural part of the exhibition space.
The exhibition area to be found on the second floor of the forty-story building is made accessible by means of an elevator installed as part of the conversion. An own entrance lobby comprising a café and a shop establishes a direct link between the museum and the public realm.
The Design of the Exhibition Space
Developed on the basis of the main conversion measures, the tour through the presentation unfolds as across a landscape in analogy to that of the MMK 1 designed by Hans Hollein, though contrary to the main building horizontally and not vertically. The emphasis of the solution conceived by Kuehn Malvezzi is on interlinking different spatial situations permitting individual exhibition experiences. Instead of a strictly chronological narration implying a defined sequence, an intuitive approach has been chosen which allows visitors to stroll. The experience of the space is characterized by over- lapping sight and path lines, offering moments of discovery and recognition during the visit of the exhibition. As the windows have been retained, visitors have a view of the city and will find it easy to locate and orientate themselves.
A series of heterogeneous spatial situations offers potential for the exhibits’ individual presentation: whereas media artworks are presented in introverted cabinets, adaptable spaces with different situations in terms of layout, light, and material respond dynamically to changing presentations of exhibits from the museum’s holdings. It is in this way in which the architecture succeeds in fulfilling the requirement to generate ever new situations and novel spatial connections by relying on just minimal interventions such as alterations of the adjustable wall displays.