Museum for Decorative Arts Frankfurt

A singular modern structure expands a historical villa and engages a bucolic park to revitalize a traditional cultural district.

This museum for decorative arts was conceived as a crucial component of a new cultural district — the Museumsüfer — prominently sited on the banks of the river Main in the heart of Frankfurt.   Historically a residential quarter, this area was transformed into a space for public use through a museum design that was exceptionally sensitive to its context, informed not only by the surrounding topography but by the local villa typology that had shaped the character of the neighborhood.

The organization of the museum’s plan is based on two intersecting geometries, one derived from the historic Villa Metzler—an elegant 19th century building that is now part of the present museum complex—and the other from the alignment of the nearby river. The superimposition of these two networks generates the formal order of the work throughout, and gives the museum space a didactic character, with the visitor proceeding counterclockwise through a prescribed series of galleries that outline the history of European decorative art. Specific openings are framed to sustain a sense of discovery through different apertures, while always permitting the objects themselves to relate to the scale of their immediate environment.

The thoughtful accommodation of the program within a minimal site area enabled the remainder of the museum grounds to be treated as a park open to the surrounding community. 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