Lenbachhaus Museum in Munich, Germany, has reopened following a renovation and expansion designed by Foster + Partners. The firm restored the museum’s historic buildings and built a new wing, entrance, and social spaces that accommodate a restaurant, terrace, education facilities, and soaring atrium.
“Our main challenge has been to maintain the same amount of exhibition area within the museum’s footprint while creating new circulation and visitor spaces,” says Foster + Partners chairman Norman Foster. “Given the way that the different parts of the museum had evolved, there was no such thing as a typical space—every corner is unique and required individual attention and different design decisions."
Foster + Partners removed a 1972 extension to reveal the wall of the museum’s original villa, built in 1891 for the artist Franz von Lenbach. The new building, clad in copper and aluminum tubes, complements the villa’s restored ochre hue and textured facades. It also houses galleries that display the “Blue Rider” collection of early-20th century Expressionist paintings, echoing the scale of their original intimate setting in Lenbach’s villa and studio. Indirect natural light further contributes to the exhibit.
A landscaped piazza leads to a new entrance and restaurant, while a top-lit atrium accommodates a grand cantilevered staircase to the upper-level galleries. The design plays with sunlight, which washes the white walls via a long, slender opening at roof level while horizontal louvres cast changing patterns of light and shade within the space.
Additionally, the project aimed to improve the museum’s environmental performance through initiatives such as a water-based heating and cooling system, rainwater collection, and low-energy lighting.