Kolumba Museum / Peter Zumthor

© Jose Fernando Vazquez

Special thanks to our reader Jose Fernando Vazquez from Urbana Arquitectura (view his work previously featured on AD) who has shared these images of Zumthor’s amazing Kolumba Museum with us.   Situated in , Germany, a city that was almost completely 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 delicately rises from the ruins of a late-Gothic church, respecting the site’s history and preserving its essence.  ”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.

More about the project and more of Vazquez’s images after the break.

Zumthor, consistently mindful of the use of the materials, and specifically their construction details, has used grey brick to unite the destroyed 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 of the Ruins.”

© Jose Fernando Vazquez

The facade of grey brick integrates the remnants of the church’s facade into a new face for the contemporary museum. Articulated with perforations, the brick work allows diffused light to fill specific spaces of the museum.  As the seasons change, the”mottled light shifts and plays across the ruins,” creating a peaceful ever-changing environment.

© Jose Fernando Vazquez

The museum includes 16 different exhibition rooms and, at the heart of the building, a secret garden courtyard – a quiet and secluded place for reflection.

© Jose Fernando Vazquez

The materiality plays such an important role in the overall design, and Zumthor, known for taking his time to develop projects, searched quite awhile for the perfect material.  Handcrafted by Petersen Tegl of Denmark, the bricks were specifically developed for this project, as they were fired with charcoal to imbue a warm hue.

Source: Debra Moffitt for Architecture Week

Cite: Cilento, Karen. "Kolumba Museum / Peter Zumthor" 06 Aug 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed 18 Sep 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=72192>


  1. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    sorry. but these photos seem to make a truly amazing work of architecture appear flat and lifeless. Noting resembling the essence of this building comes through.

  2. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    No doubt, these images are beautiful – but they leave out the best part of it: the beautiful detailing of the stair case / the amazing detailing of the intersections of walls/floor/windows / the beauty of only the goods’ lift / the mesmerizing atmosphere in the inner courtyard / the beautiful detailing/atmosphere, even in the bathrooms / the stunning reading room… – this project reflects very much, why Zumthor achieved the Pritzker Prize… and these beautiful images do not even tell half the truth!

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      Agreed! I was there last year and you are absolutely right about the stairs, windows, floors, and even bathrooms! The feeling you get of walking on floating floors is wonderful, yet very hard to experience on pictures.

      I found there’s something very odd about the stairs. Going down them, they seemed to be coming right at you and I found them almost confusing.

  3. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Beautiful building, but the stair color is completely off. Especially with the rest of the material palette. Makes it look like a utilitarian egress stair, when upon closer inspection it’s actual very well designed.

  4. Thumb up Thumb down -4

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

  6. Thumb up Thumb down -1

    Much as I usually admire Zumthor and appreciate his skill and thoughtfulness, I really can’t reconcile the building and its site. Yes the church and courtyard are intact, and I am sure spatially they work well, but the building sits so heavily and arrogantly on the site. The interior is different, but I think that although it echoes Zumthor’s simplicity, little of the beauty of his other work is there.

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      I agree somewhat. The duplicity of the flatness of Zumthor’s walls against the audaciously ornate gothic ruins and how each meets the ground @ the sidewalk doesn’t sit right with me (however that could be the point). The pictures of the interior show spot-on Zumthor, heavy materials evoking a light and airy feeling. The project is very much in the spirit of what Zumthor espouses in his written work about memory.

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        Completelly agree. No matter I understand the idea and really like the general image of the project and the interiors, you can´t help but think that this proposal somehow makes keeping the ruins unnecesary which sure is an irony.

  7. Thumb up Thumb down -1

    It sits heavy on the site in reason, that every ancient church sited very heavy inside midevial towns. Normally, never was enough space around old churches. Main goal, was achived, is the atmosfear of midevial times, made by contemporary facilities. If examine this building moor closely, it’s look very similar to SANAA’s New York Museum of Contemporary Art by impression, but really each of them has it’s own masterpiece.

  8. Thumb up Thumb down +2

    This looks like an amazing building. The photography is pretty terrible though. So much lense distortion. Photographers have to realize that shooting with a wide lense such as this sometimes requires post production work. There are some decent ones, but id love to see it in good light.

  9. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    How were you able to take pictures? I tried but the gaurd yelled at me! This is a fantastic building. The pictures are great but the feeling you get when you walk in is something that you have to experience and is hard to describe.

  10. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    That’s I call architecture. That´s the diference between god and bad architects.Peter Zumthor, in this masterpiece, makes the dialog between the old and the new with class and order. That´s a real class for architects that think that architecture is transforming cities em ladys gaga´s dresses…

  11. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Zumthor might not literally be God, but he’s a convincing apostle of truth and honesty in architecture. And as a spatial encounter this was certainly the closest to a religious experience as an agnostic can have. Some have commented that the pictures don’t do justice to the building; although that’s usually standard for all good architecture, it is particularly true in this case. One definitely needs to be there, and feel it in order to really appreciate Zumthor’s dexterity. As Hanley Stewart states, photography shouldn’t be mistaken as a substitute for experience…

  12. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Thank you for the images of the unseen corner’s of Zumthor’s work. Although I am somewhat disappointed with extreme wide angle of the camera producing awkward and inaccurate depictions of his work.

  13. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    This is a amazing building, transporting feelings in a way that only very few buildings do – but these photographs make it look like flat boring usual piece of thoughtless brickbatch. why are you using such bad pictures? Im sorry for being so rough!

  14. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Great pictures! Can they be-reused if given proper credit to the photographer? We’re working on an architectural catalog of modern religious buildings in Germany and would like to use some of the pictures. Please contact me at .

  15. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I have to admit I was underwhelmed when I first saw images of this building. However, in person it completely blew me away. From the subdued urban response and the sacred spatial qualities of the ruins, to the carefully orchestrated progression of spaces in the museum and unparalleled quality of details within….an absolutely amazing piece of architecture.

  16. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    what key words can i use to search for such type of architecture?
    i mean to build over old buildings

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