Contract - From Castle to Treasury: Schloss Freudenstein Museum

design - features - institutional design



From Castle to Treasury: Schloss Freudenstein Museum

11 September, 2009

-By Michael Webb, Photography by AFF architekten



Converting a palace into a museum is commonplace in Europe, where a proliferation of princes has given way to the democratization of culture. But few of these transformations can compare in boldness with that of Schloss Freudenstein, in the Saxon mining town of Freiburg, Germany. AFF architekten of Berlin has enriched the historic façades with precisely detailed additions and inserted vibrantly colored interiors within the hollow shell of the old. For the museum of mineral specimens (one of the world's most impressive), the architects have arranged dramatically lit vitrines beneath arched vaults and timber beams, and there the palette is monochromatic to show off the beauty of the crystals. In the adjoining wing, they've taken their cues from these minerals to house the Saxon mining archives in a setting that turns history on its head. It's a shock to move from the Renaissance courtyard through interiors that juxtapose white plaster, textured concrete, and planes of sizzling purple, sulfurous yellow, hot pink, and viridian green. And yet, as your eyes adjust to the unfamiliar shapes and hues, you realize how thoughtfully the architects have set old against new so that each enhances the other.

It's hard to imagine such a radical approach winning acceptance in the United States. In the past 40 years we've gone from the wholesale destruction of classic buildings that had outlived their original purpose and could be profitably redeveloped to an obsession with preserving or mimicking the old. Buildings of questionable merit are protected with the same fretful care we lavish on our children. Contextualism rules, and most additions and alterations are timidly deferential. Germans have deep respect for the legacy of the past—especially since so much was lost to war-time devastation—and they too can lapse into historicism, especially in Berlin, where a misguided plan to reconstruct the royal palace as an empty sham is still afloat. But they are less apt than we to block intelligent adaptations, and AFF has taken full advantage of that enlightened attitude.

A firm best known for new buildings, AFF immersed itself in local history. The architects studied the colors and structure of minerals and relived the experience of miners in the galleries that honeycomb the Ezgebirge Mountains. Schloss Freudenstein (which translates as "stone of happiness") had been repeatedly transformed. First erected in 1168 as a castle to protect the silver mines that made Saxony one of the richest states in Europe, it was remodeled as a Renaissance palace in the 1560s. In later years it served as an arsenal, a hospital, and a granary. Windows were made smaller, state rooms were gutted, and timber floors were inserted to increase the storage capacity. By the time AFF won the competition, the building was abandoned and derelict. "Instead of walking through corridors and halls, we were confronted with endless rows of beams," observed Sven Froehlich, a member of the design team. "The entire building was in essence a historical façade with a wooden warehouse inside."

The goal was to respect the fragmentation of the old building and the memories it contained, while creating a memorial to the industry that gave the city its identity. The design team inset octagons of pale granite into the courtyard as an allusion to the crystalline structure of minerals. A blank white façade was animated with "scoops"—hollow wedges of dark concrete that were conceived as ventilation shafts but now serve to anticipate the "ark," an inner structure that provides a climate-controlled environment, protecting ancient documents as the castle protected the mines. AFF employed the same dark concrete and sober geometry for a projecting entry lobby. The vibrant colors were inspired by paintings of the elder and younger Cranach, who flourished in the heyday of the palace. "It's about an 'a-ha' effect when you break a stone, and the colors within are revealed," says Froehlich. "They correspond as much to the lost splendor of the Renaissance interior as to the joy of discovering concealed treasures, like a miner does beneath the earth."

There's a lively dialogue between intimate study areas and lofty circulation spaces that reveal the full height of the building, bare walls, and pierced or modeled planes. A sweeping Renaissance stairway, bathed in soft natural light, leads to a sharply angled enclosure. Throughout, the architects sought to achieve a balance of past and present, rough and smooth, cool and vibrant, and, in doing so, they have heightened public interest in a monument and the city it symbolizes.


who
Project: Freudenstein Castle, Freiberg - Saxon Mining Archive and Mineralogical Collection. Client: Municipal Administration of Freiberg. Users: Saxon Mining Archive Freiberg, Mineralogical Collection, curated by TU Bergakademie Freiberg. Architect, interior designer: AFF Architects. Structural engineer: IBK Engineers Dr. Krämer. Mechanical engineer: IBZ engineering Chemnitz . Electrical engineer: Zibell Willner and Partner. Construction manager: AFF Architects; Michael Schacke, Thomas Barth. Lighting designer: L-Plan Lighting Design. Acoustician: BBS Engineering Office. Furniture dealer: Studio FMB. Photographer: Sven Fröhlich/ AFF Architects.

what
Wallcoverings: Foam Glass, Pittsburgh Paints. Paint:  Caparol. Dry wall: Knauf Gips KG. Masonry: existing. Flooring: Deutag. Lighting: Spectral, Targetti Poulsen, Modular Lightning Instruments. Doors: AFF Architects, built by BSS, Brand-Erbisdorf. Door hardware: FSB. Glass: Saint Gobain Glass. Administrative desks, cafeteria, dining, training, library, conference tables: lacquered MDF, designed by AFF Architects, built by Tischlerei Göbel. Administrative, lounge, cafeteria, dining, auditorium , library and conference seating, laboratory stools : Vitra AG. Laboratory benches, other seating, shelving: lacquered MDF, designed by AFF Architects, built by Hofmann + Großmann. Display cases: designed by AFF Archiects built by Vitrinen- und Glasbau REIER. Signage: designed by AFF Architects fabricated by FWS. Access flooring: Obo Bettermann. Plumbing fixtures: Grohe.

where
Location: Freiberg, Germany. Total floor area: 177,066 sq. ft. No. of floors: 7. Average floor size: 25,295 sq. ft. Capacity crowd: 150 (Saxon Mining Archive), 750  (Mineralogical Collection). Cost/sq. ft: 145.


From Castle to Treasury: Schloss Freudenstein Museum

11 September, 2009


AFF architekten

Converting a palace into a museum is commonplace in Europe, where a proliferation of princes has given way to the democratization of culture. But few of these transformations can compare in boldness with that of Schloss Freudenstein, in the Saxon mining town of Freiburg, Germany. AFF architekten of Berlin has enriched the historic façades with precisely detailed additions and inserted vibrantly colored interiors within the hollow shell of the old. For the museum of mineral specimens (one of the world's most impressive), the architects have arranged dramatically lit vitrines beneath arched vaults and timber beams, and there the palette is monochromatic to show off the beauty of the crystals. In the adjoining wing, they've taken their cues from these minerals to house the Saxon mining archives in a setting that turns history on its head. It's a shock to move from the Renaissance courtyard through interiors that juxtapose white plaster, textured concrete, and planes of sizzling purple, sulfurous yellow, hot pink, and viridian green. And yet, as your eyes adjust to the unfamiliar shapes and hues, you realize how thoughtfully the architects have set old against new so that each enhances the other.

It's hard to imagine such a radical approach winning acceptance in the United States. In the past 40 years we've gone from the wholesale destruction of classic buildings that had outlived their original purpose and could be profitably redeveloped to an obsession with preserving or mimicking the old. Buildings of questionable merit are protected with the same fretful care we lavish on our children. Contextualism rules, and most additions and alterations are timidly deferential. Germans have deep respect for the legacy of the past—especially since so much was lost to war-time devastation—and they too can lapse into historicism, especially in Berlin, where a misguided plan to reconstruct the royal palace as an empty sham is still afloat. But they are less apt than we to block intelligent adaptations, and AFF has taken full advantage of that enlightened attitude.

A firm best known for new buildings, AFF immersed itself in local history. The architects studied the colors and structure of minerals and relived the experience of miners in the galleries that honeycomb the Ezgebirge Mountains. Schloss Freudenstein (which translates as "stone of happiness") had been repeatedly transformed. First erected in 1168 as a castle to protect the silver mines that made Saxony one of the richest states in Europe, it was remodeled as a Renaissance palace in the 1560s. In later years it served as an arsenal, a hospital, and a granary. Windows were made smaller, state rooms were gutted, and timber floors were inserted to increase the storage capacity. By the time AFF won the competition, the building was abandoned and derelict. "Instead of walking through corridors and halls, we were confronted with endless rows of beams," observed Sven Froehlich, a member of the design team. "The entire building was in essence a historical façade with a wooden warehouse inside."

The goal was to respect the fragmentation of the old building and the memories it contained, while creating a memorial to the industry that gave the city its identity. The design team inset octagons of pale granite into the courtyard as an allusion to the crystalline structure of minerals. A blank white façade was animated with "scoops"—hollow wedges of dark concrete that were conceived as ventilation shafts but now serve to anticipate the "ark," an inner structure that provides a climate-controlled environment, protecting ancient documents as the castle protected the mines. AFF employed the same dark concrete and sober geometry for a projecting entry lobby. The vibrant colors were inspired by paintings of the elder and younger Cranach, who flourished in the heyday of the palace. "It's about an 'a-ha' effect when you break a stone, and the colors within are revealed," says Froehlich. "They correspond as much to the lost splendor of the Renaissance interior as to the joy of discovering concealed treasures, like a miner does beneath the earth."

There's a lively dialogue between intimate study areas and lofty circulation spaces that reveal the full height of the building, bare walls, and pierced or modeled planes. A sweeping Renaissance stairway, bathed in soft natural light, leads to a sharply angled enclosure. Throughout, the architects sought to achieve a balance of past and present, rough and smooth, cool and vibrant, and, in doing so, they have heightened public interest in a monument and the city it symbolizes.


who
Project: Freudenstein Castle, Freiberg - Saxon Mining Archive and Mineralogical Collection. Client: Municipal Administration of Freiberg. Users: Saxon Mining Archive Freiberg, Mineralogical Collection, curated by TU Bergakademie Freiberg. Architect, interior designer: AFF Architects. Structural engineer: IBK Engineers Dr. Krämer. Mechanical engineer: IBZ engineering Chemnitz . Electrical engineer: Zibell Willner and Partner. Construction manager: AFF Architects; Michael Schacke, Thomas Barth. Lighting designer: L-Plan Lighting Design. Acoustician: BBS Engineering Office. Furniture dealer: Studio FMB. Photographer: Sven Fröhlich/ AFF Architects.

what
Wallcoverings: Foam Glass, Pittsburgh Paints. Paint:  Caparol. Dry wall: Knauf Gips KG. Masonry: existing. Flooring: Deutag. Lighting: Spectral, Targetti Poulsen, Modular Lightning Instruments. Doors: AFF Architects, built by BSS, Brand-Erbisdorf. Door hardware: FSB. Glass: Saint Gobain Glass. Administrative desks, cafeteria, dining, training, library, conference tables: lacquered MDF, designed by AFF Architects, built by Tischlerei Göbel. Administrative, lounge, cafeteria, dining, auditorium , library and conference seating, laboratory stools : Vitra AG. Laboratory benches, other seating, shelving: lacquered MDF, designed by AFF Architects, built by Hofmann + Großmann. Display cases: designed by AFF Archiects built by Vitrinen- und Glasbau REIER. Signage: designed by AFF Architects fabricated by FWS. Access flooring: Obo Bettermann. Plumbing fixtures: Grohe.

where
Location: Freiberg, Germany. Total floor area: 177,066 sq. ft. No. of floors: 7. Average floor size: 25,295 sq. ft. Capacity crowd: 150 (Saxon Mining Archive), 750  (Mineralogical Collection). Cost/sq. ft: 145.
 


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