Kolumba Art Museum
by Debra Moffitt
In Cologne, Germany, a city ravaged by World War II, the Kolumba Art Museum embraces and preserves centuries of culture and pays poetic tribute to the layers of civilization unearthed on its site. Designed by reclusive Swiss architect Peter Zumthor, the museum provides a stunning exception to the city's drab urban landscape built after the war.
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Zumthor won the commission from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cologne in 1997 to house its collection of sacred art spanning over a thousand years. The museum rose on the site of the late-gothic St. Columba church, only a shell of which remained after wartime bombing.
The project posed a number of challenges. In addition to creating an exhibit gallery, Zumthor was charged with relating the new museum to diverse existing elements on the site. These included the fragments of the St. Columba; other brick and stone ruins from the Roman and medieval periods discovered during archaeological excavations in the 1970s; and German architect Gottfried Böhm's 1950 chapel for the "Madonna of the Ruins," a statue that survived the war.
The resulting building is a contemporary landmark that appeals to a sense of the sacred.
Room of Ruins
Zumthor seamlessly integrated the St. Columba remnants into the museum's facade, composed of gray brick punctuated by rows of perforations and large, high windows.
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