Written by Thomas Stellmach

Zumthor in Cologne: The Art Museum of the Metropolitan Bishop

Zumthor in Cologne: The Art Museum of the by Thomas Stellmach


Facade of the Kolumba museum, photo: Claudia Strahl

The swiss architect Peter Zumthor built an art museum around the wreckage of the parish church St.Kolumba. commissioned by Cardinal Meisner (lately in the news with his comment of “Entartete Kunst” on Gerhard Richter’s design for the window Koelner Dom) , the won competition in 1997 was finally realized 10 years later.The museum is an archaic castle for religious art of 2000 years sycamore culture as well for modern installations.

Kolumba consists of several periods in architecture history: starting with the late Gothic church St.Kolumba, the chapel “Madonna in den Trümmern” ( “Madonna in ruins” ) was buillt in 1950. Interestingly enough, the architect of this little chapel, Gottfried Böhm, made now the very controversial discussed design for the Zentralmoschee Köln Cologne Mosque Project. Continuing 1973-1976 with the archaeological excavation, finalized by Zumthor’s new design.

Entering the building, I am moved by the fact, that architecture is able to create such an unique atmosphere of spirit.”A museum, which lives from light and which shows, how the darkness and brightness are brother and sister” (Benedikt Loderer). One extreme is the “black room”, absolute darkness, with the glimmer of the relics.

Inside the “Kabinett”, photo: Claudia Strahl

Brightness enters the upper part of the museum with precise, big openings to the surrounding (view to the banal after-war buildings as well on the dome). p1010104.JPG

Top light on upper floor, photo: Claudia Strahl

Zumthor created a calm place to stay with an extreme exclusiveness by using pure detail and materiality. He is known as a extreme control freak, there is no little error in the whole building (trust me, I searched for them). It is a master piece, worth its 43,5 M Euros, given that it manages to be an international religious landmark for Cologne beside the cathedral.


View to the cathedral, photo: Claudia Strahl


Museum sitting on top of the ruins, photo: Constanze Hirt


Inside the ruins of the gothic church, photo: Constanze Hirt

  Comments ( 8 )

  1. Wow, the building looks fantastic. I’ve seen some details inside, photographed by Karin, and it’s amazing how the joints always meet (or don’t meet). There seemed to always be a “space in-between” between the floor/wall and wall/ceiling.

  2. I was just thinking of showing Zumthor works to my students in Syria, and here comes your post! His work is the absolute opposite of Aleppo’s architecture. Syria is about careless building with a ornate decoration glued to it, Z is minimalistic perfection.

  3. Claudia,
    Thank you for this visit.
    I have seen a lot of Zumthor’s architecture while studying in Lausanne (CH) and I got the same feeling in each of his construction: “no little error”. Every thing looks so perfect. Here again, we can feel the tactile and sensory qualities of the space and materials, and the conspicuousness for every detail.
    I am agreeing with Tom, more pictures please!

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