Ahrenshoop - located between the Baltic Sea and the salt marsh coast of Germany - is historically important as a former artists’ colony and, today, is well known as an attractive tourist destination. The new Kunstmuseum Ahrenshoop will house works of art created locally over the years that display an intense connection with the landscape. The new building itself is destined to become a significant landmark and a magnet for the many visitors who, especially in summer, pass through the isthmus near Ahrenshoop heading for the string of islands off the coast.
Staab Architekten’s design was inspired by an old photo of the region, showing an irregular grouping of similarly shaped, traditional, buildings - obviously a farmstead – characterised by steep thatched roofs. From this image, the architecture of the new museum developed from the local agricultural vernacular, resonating with the exhibited artists’ strong local connections.
A cluster of houses
The result is a homogeneous ensemble of five, largely windowless, single-room buildings with hipped roofs virtually cut off below the ridge-line – a device that enables the internal exhibition spaces to be naturally lit. The individual ‘houses’, constructed entirely from reinforced concrete, are clustered together – as in a traditional village - face different directions and are interlinked by a central flat roof at their eaves. The entire complex is designed as a sculptural whole with a central foyer from which the individual exhibition spaces can be accessed.
From the outset, the architects sought a modern interpretation of the reed thatch used to cover traditional buildings to clad the new museum. A sustainable copper cladding was favoured as it naturally exhibits similar ageing properties. Ultimately, brass was chosen to exhibit colour changes resulting from oxidisation mirroring those of traditional thatch. Initially, the brass is reminiscent of a reed-covered roof glowing in the sunlight. Like the reed, the metal will gradually change with shades of greenish brown, through grey-brown to dark brown-anthracite, caused by the formation of a natural protective layer that guarantees the resistance and longevity of the material.
Animated profiled surface structure
But the architects went a step further with their analogy, seeking a surface form resembling reeds to act as the building's skin. This involved a patented process and close collaboration with specialist metal forming company MN Metallverarbeitung Neustadt. A unique sheet profile was developed that exhibits the depth and complexity of a thatched surface on the prefabricated brass facade.
The apparently random, animated profiled surface structure flows continuously with no visible offset – even in the transition where the eaves meet – giving the impression that the whole has been cast as one piece. The variations of light and shadow on the edges and curves of the brass surface allow the cladding to change in alternating shades, already suggesting how the colour of the surface will alter over time as a result of oxidisation.