The new Kunsthalle Mannheim building

gmp · von Gerkan, Marg and Partners Architects as Architects

After a construction period of about two-and-a-half years, the new building of Kunsthalle Mannheim was handed over to the city and its citizens on 18 December 2017. Following large museum projects in Asia, such as the National Museum in Beijing, the architects von Gerkan, Marg and Partners (gmp) have now completed their first new museum of a comparable size in Germany.


The new museum building links up with the existing Art Nouveau building, known as the Billing building, and has been designed as a “city in the city”. Within a simple overall volume that resonates with the layout of Mannheim, the “city of squares”, individual exhibition and function rooms that are nevertheless connected form a lively composition. A central atrium is surrounded by the building on three levels. In analogy to the elements that make up urban environments—buildings, blocks, streets, and squares—the architects have created varied circular routes for the visitors through enclosed and open spaces with changing vistas and outlooks. From the roof terrace visitors can enjoy a view with the panorama of Friedrichsplatz.


As had already been envisaged at the time of the foundation of the Kunsthalle, it has been given a prestigious elevation towards the park at Friedrichsplatz. The facades are clad with a transparent, bronze-colored metal fabric and blend well with the surroundings. The overall space concept creates a multifaceted functional and visual relationship between the museum and urban space.

This story is available in multiple languages

A creative powerhouse for the arts – Zumtobel lights up a new building at the Kunsthalle Mannheim

Zumtobel Lighting Gmbh as Manufacturers

Showcasing art with light is a Zumtobel specialty. Planning and realising a high-quality and perfectly tailored lighting solution not only helps preserve works of art, but also supports both the overall concept of the exhibition and the architecture of the museum. And that is exactly what has been achieved in close cooperation with a·g Licht at the Kunsthalle Mannheim – the largest new building at a German art museum in recent years. As a cultural temple to the urban future of Mannheim, architects from the Gerkan, Marg and Partner (gmp) architectural office have crafted a design that creates an elegant “city in the city”.

As an essential part of the curatorial concept, light fundamentally shapes the emotional perception of architecture and art, helping observers to make a real sensory connection with the pieces on show. The seemingly simple-looking new building at the Kunsthalle Mannheim, which was recently opened to much fanfare after three years of construction, houses a radical museum concept – a concept in which the emotions behind the art play a role. A key role. The 68.3-million-euro building is currently the largest new construction at an art museum in the whole of Germany and has attracted almost 90,000 visitors in the first three months. Yet it is more than just the exceptional idea of the museum that draws people here. The unique architecture has also caught the eye. The Kunsthalle Mannheim is in fact a “city in the city”, where ten cubes invite visitors to really engage with the most varied aspects of art.

The scale of the rooms and especially the atrium, a 22-metre-high space awash with daylight, placed special demands on the lighting concept – which is why a clever solution devised by lighting design agency a·g Licht was required to place the 13,000 square metres of floor space in just the right light. Various factors helped Daniel Walden from a·g Licht make the call to involve Zumtobel with this lighting concept (and not just the long-standing cooperation between the two companies). “Zumtobel impressed with a high degree of lighting comfort and light quality, but also with their extensive portfolio of accessories, which has enabled us to tailor the light intensity and thereby accurately meet the changing requirements of the exhibition lighting. Because that is exactly what the “museum in motion” concept needs: flexibility and adaptability,” explained Daniel Walden. 

A highly adaptable and individually tailored lighting installation has been carefully designed for the first special exhibition: assorted works by the photo artist Jeff Wall, which ran until the start of September. However, while the lighting installation at the Kunsthalle perfectly showcased Wall's concept photography exhibition, Zumtobel has also made sure that the solution can provide optimal staging for other exhibitions in the future. Just like “The Construction of the World: Art and Economy” (Konstruktion der Welt: Kunst und Ökonomie), the first major theme-based exhibition at the Kunsthalle Mannheim that opened on 11. October 2018. The exhibits and the atrium are highlighted using ARCOS 3 LED xpert spotlights. The result: flawless accents and excellent efficiency. Indeed, the museum has already ordered another 250 ARCOS 3 LED xpert fittings to further extend the installation. At the same time, the DIAMO and PANOS infinity lighting systems have been combined with illuminated ceilings to deliver ideal illumination at all times in the spaces adjacent to the exhibition cubicles. All thanks to various personalisation options and high-quality accent lighting. This unique lighting installation has made the theory of a “museum in motion” a reality – and at the same time given exhibits a fresh and truly authentic appearance. 

The visionary building design from gmp Architekten integrates urban quality through a refined interior structure. In terms of the architecture, the construction meets all the requirements of the 21st century – in much the same way as the pioneering lighting concept. Daniel Walden and the lighting designers at a·g Licht in Bonn have been working together with Zumtobel for years. So they certainly appreciate the intensive partnership-based cooperation offered by the in-house lighting experts from the lighting manufacturer’s “Atelier of Light” project-planning department. This is where flexibility, versatility and customer focus are key – three cornerstones of the Zumtobel approach.

Kunsthalle Mannheim Museum

GKD Metal Fabrics as Manufacturers


The Kunsthalle Mannheim museum of modern and contemporary art was opened at the end of 2017 by Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. As Germany's largest new museum building, it is a prime example of both civic commitment and architectural skill. The private patrons initiative – with SAP founder Hans-Werner Hector alone donating EUR 50 million – was what made the bold design at Friedrichsplatz possible. Based on the concept developed by the architects von Gerkan, Marg and Partners, a city within the city was created here, which reinterprets classic museum architecture while honoring Mannheim's historical city layout. The composition of room-forming cubes is visually connected by a sophisticated façade made of bronze-colored stainless steel fabric from GKD – Gebr. Kufferath AG (GKD). The translucent shell creates a subtle dialog between the inside and outside world. At the same time, the masterfully varying transparency of the fabric translates the scale of the building, creating a balanced sense of near and far.

Following a construction period of around two and half years, the museum ensemble comprising the Billing Building from 1907, the connecting Athene Wing, and the new Kunsthalle museum building – named the Hector Building after the main benefactor – presents itself as an inviting whole. The Kunsthalle museum building replaces the rather dilapidated Mitzlaff Building, an extension constructed in 1983.

The new building, developed by gmp aswinner of a two-stage architecture competition, respects the art nouveau architecture of the old building through its consciously reduced language. The architects created a monolithic, seamless concrete structure for the prominent location which fits in harmoniously with the development at Friedrichplatz and blends with the historic building. Their concept of transforming the museum into a city within the city comprises 13 cubes of different heights and widths that are offset from one another. As a tribute to Mannheim's chessboard city layout, sometimes also referred to as the city of squares, a network of open and closed rooms was created with alternating perspectives depending on the location of the viewer. Seven of these cubes are grouped around the heart of the new Kunsthalle Mannheim, the 22-meter-high open atrium that boasts an area of 700 square meters. The cubes are connected to one another via galleries, terraces, and bridges. These guide visitors around the space and then back to their starting point in the atrium.

The museum's visitor experience thereby reflects the dynamics and architecture of a city. A total of three exhibition levels offer new presentation opportunities, including the full-height city window on the first floor, which offers an impressive view of the water tower. The atrium, which is covered by a glass roof and therefore flooded with light, grants fascinating views in all directions. Even without an admission ticket, visitors can enter the building, immerse themselves in its atmosphere, and take a few minutes out to enjoy a coffee. The feeling of wide open space and cosmopolitanism stimulate a sense of curiosity among visitors to explore the other rooms. At the same time, the window-like façade creates a sense of togetherness between the city and the museum, ensuring that everyone feels at ease.

Woven work of art

This feeling is underlined by the stainless steel fabric façade cladding. It unites the real urban environment with its artistic counterpart and allows the city and museum visitors to come together and participate in one another's lives. To this end, the architects went with a significantly higher degree of transparency for the fabric in front of the large-format glazed surfaces than for that cladding the fiber cement panels in front of the cubes. This varying degree of transparency preserves the effect of the architectural concept, regardless of the viewing distance.

Despite the colossal dimensions of the building's structure and façade, the woven skin loses nothing of its textile effect even from a distance. This was made possible by the fabric design developed by GKD especially by for this project, which acts like a work of art in its own right. The company wove stainless steel wires and tubes of two different diameters – 3 mm and 25 mm – into four-wire warp wire groups made of untreated stainless steel. The key here was to use weaving techniques to completely balance out the varying stress ratios in the fabric due to the differences in wire thickness, so that the façade would withstand the strict static requirements caused by wind and snow. However, the exceptional fabric design also had to face another challenge: to replicate the precisely stipulated color tone of the woven skin chosen, itself selected following a lengthy decision-making process.

Despite the various metal mesh components employed, including cables, wires, tubes, and tube side closures, its homogeneity needed to be guaranteed across the entire surface. GKD's many years of experience with coating technologies and their effects on buildings proved invaluable here. For example, the wires were coated in a continuous process, while the tubes were painted together with the closures in a spraying process and all then interwoven with the untreated warp wire groups. A total of 72 panels, each measuring around 20 meters in length and 3.26 meters in width, were used to create the sophisticated skin which lends the Kunsthalle its versatile face. With the discreet brilliance of the warm bronze tone, the finished fabric reflects the color of the sandstone used in neighboring buildings. The large, stainless steel fabric façade measures over 4,600 square meters and changes its appearance throughout the day, in all weather conditions, from near or far.

During daylight hours, it reflects the sunlight and its surroundings with the water tower and urban life. In the evening, it employs an intelligent lighting concept from below which transforms the Kunsthalle into the illuminated focal point of Mannheim's most elegant square. The transparent façade grants unobstructed views of the city and the water tower from inside the museum. At the same time, it offers passers-by inviting insights into what goes on inside the museum. The metal fabric façade thereby establishes a connection between the city and the museum, which effortlessly succeeds in striking a perfect balance between reduced design language and desired emotionality.

Open cultures

Solarlux as Manufacturers

Cosmopolitanism and transparency characterize the buildings of the Kunsthalle Mannheim. The LUXX restaurant picks up on the themes in its concept and acts as a meeting place. Maximum openings on the outer façade allow the interior to blend with its surroundings.


Based on the history of the city of Mannheim, the Kunsthalle was built. The cosmopolitanism of different cultures is reflected in architecture. The Hamburg architects gmp conceived the museum as a "city in the city" with a light-flooded atrium in the center, which opens up visual relationships in all directions. Right next to the entrance, as part of the Kunsthalle Mannheim, the LUXX restaurant was opened in the summer of 2018. "Without distinction of nations" is the principle here. Built on the principle of quadrature, it stands for the social diversity of the numerous nations that live in the squares of the city. Lux means light, the second "X" symbolizes the grid structure of the city.


The visually restrained spatial concept runs like a red thread through the entire restaurant. High ceilings emphasize the openness of the cultural gathering. In addition, the reduced and open design allows the guest many interpretations. The openness in the interior is complemented by a large outdoor terrace. To seamlessly connect inside and outside and underline the transparency of the building, a glass folding wall by Solarlux has been integrated. Even with closed elements, the Highline folding system dissolves the spatial conventions and creates unusually wide visual references. The filigree profiles with a viewing width of only 99 mm ensure maximum transparency. In addition, the system is the only one on the market that offers excellent thermal insulation values ​​with an Uw value of up to 0.8 W / m2K. Bulletproof glass that meets the requirements of the burglar resistance standard RC2 protects against uninvited guests in the rooms of the Kunsthalle.


With an opening width of over 13 meters, the restaurant area is connected without any threshold to the outdoor area, thus enlarging the space for the guests. The floor-level rail is completely barrier-free, allowing guests and staff a smooth transition from the inside out. As an architectural design element, the glass folding wall emphasizes the museum and restaurant concept as a cosmopolitan location.

This story is available in multiple languages
Product Spec Sheet

ElementBrandProduct name
ManufacturersZumtobel Lighting Gmbh
ManufacturersGKD Metal Fabrics
Product Spec Sheet
Loom House
next project

Loom House

Private Houses
Bainbridge Island, WA, USA - Build completed in 2019
View Project