Japanisches Palais—The Kunstkammer
© Academy for Architectural Culture

Japanisches Palais—The Kunstkammer as a working collection

gmp · von Gerkan, Marg and Partners Architects as Architects

Exhibition of the results of the aac workshop in Dresden

The spring workshop of the aac Academy for Architectural Culture was focused on the Japanische Palais— the last element in Dresden’s museum landscape that still requires refurbishment. Under the guidance of Meinhard von Gerkan and Stephan Schütz, the scholarship students developed designs that open the building towards Neustadt and the River Elbe, and convert the Japanische Palais into a contemporary “working collection” in which the general public is involved in the process of artistic creation. From August 15, 2019, the results will be shown in the exhibition entitled Visions for the Future at the Japanische Palais in Dresden.

In 1560, Elector August I founded the Kunstkammer Dresden, which was to become the founding part of Dresden’s State Art Collection (SKD), housed in Germany’s oldest museum network. From the very beginning, the Kunstkammer had been conceived of as a place for exhibitions and as a workshop, which combined everything from craft items to fine art objects, and a collection of scientific objects, under one roof. August provided tools, books, and materials to craftsmen and artists with the idea of gradually growing the collection. This approach to a “working collection” was again the key idea at the aac workshop. Before the workshop, the design brief had been established in cooperation with Dresden’s state museums and adapted to the local conditions. The scholarship students were given the task of developing concepts for the last of Dresden’s museums that still requires refurbishment and, in this context, of opening the building more towards the city.

The seminar started with a three-day excursion to Dresden, during which Prof. Dr. Marion Ackermann, General Director of the SKD, introduced the concept for the Japanische Palais. The participants were able to visit the building and to gain an impression of its current condition, and to discuss initial questions and design approaches with Noura Dirani, Officer for Trans-Cultural Methods at the SKD, and Michael John, Technical Manager at the Department for Construction, Technology, and Security. With its central position at the northern bank of the River Elbe, within close proximity to the Zwinger and the Semperoper, the building is an important element of Dresden’s museum landscape. Back in Hamburg, work on the design started in earnest in the aac studios. Each of the four teams of four students was mentored by an experienced tutor. The comprehensive teaching program was rounded off with informative talks and rounds of critical appraisal with guest professors Antonio Cruz of Cruz y Ortiz Arquitectos in Seville, Prof. Dr.-Ing- h.c. HG Merz of hg merz architects and museum designers, and Prof. José Gutierres Marques of Bruno Fioretti Marquez architects.

The participants were asked to reflect a multi-layered requirement profile in their designs: in addition to the customary modern museum infrastructure with a foyer, café, and service rooms, functional rooms for four areas were defined in accordance with the ICOM standard (International Council of Museums). These functions are collecting, preserving, researching, and exhibiting/conveying. In the final presentation the groups showed four completely different results: Group 1 opened up the first-floor level, thus creating a throughroute for citizens. Group 2 arranged the starting point of the visiting tour above ground level, where there is a view over Dresden. Group 3 placed a sculptural glass structure in the inner courtyard serving as a roofedover access point. Group 4 doubled up the space in the interior courtyard by introducing a second level. This created a roofed internal space with another outside space above.

The results were first exhibited in the studios of the aac, and—from August 15 until November 3, 2019—can be viewed at the Japanische Palais in Dresden under the title Visionen für die Zukunft (Visions for the Future) as part of the current special exhibition Die Erfindung der Zukunft (The Invention of the Future).

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