The Fridericianum, constructed in Kassel in 1779, was the first museum in the world solely dedicated to the presentation of art and cultural treasures. Today, museums are among the most prestigious building projects designed by famous architects. Numerous visionaries, such as Karl Friedrich Schinkel, have come up with extraordinary concepts for museum design. Not only do these include such projects as the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, which have stirred controversy among traditional art scholars and museum staff. With the unabated construction of new museums, there has been growing debate in architectural circles regarding the relationship between content and form. As the museum itself becomes a “meta artwork”, does the dominance of its architectural design lessen the significance of the exhibited artworks inside? Or does the new facade merely enhance the popularity of art?

At a public conference titled “Context Architecture”, well-known philosophers, architects and architecture critics discussed the theoretical and practical demands of contemporary museum architecture. The Sprengel Museum in Hannover, which opened in 1979 and was significantly expanded in 1992, offers a number of interesting points of discussion on this issue. Designed by the architects’ group Peter and Ursula Trint from Cologne and Dieter Quast from Heidelberg, the architectural concept of the museum is based on the principle of dialogue between “opening and closing” and between “public area and artistic aura”.
The conference focused on the demands that are placed on museum architecture. What context does architecture create for the exhibited artworks? And what is the context of the museum’s architectural design itself? For many new museums – including the planned construction of a new building at the Sprengel Museum – the question is how the architectural design interacts with and impacts the existing museum buildings. Another important issue concerns the status of architecture. Does every structure have architectural merit? Does every architectural work necessarily depend on its context? And to what extent can we assess the merit of architecture on the basis of functionality?

This conference is part of a series of Philosophy:Art conferences, hosted by the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich together with five museums in Germany. Conferences will also take place in Schwerin, Munich and Bonn. The goal is to discuss current issues of art as clearly and understandably as possible, and apply the methods and terms used in analytical philosophy to enhance our understanding of contemporary art.

Project coordinators:
Prof. Dr. Julian Nida-Rümelin and Prof. Dr. Jakob Steinbrenner
Chair of Philosophy IV, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich

Ex­pert panel:

Dr. Christoph Baumberger (ETH Zürich), Prof. Wilfried Kühn (State University of Design, Media and Arts, Karlsruhe), Dr. Niklas Maak (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung), Dr. Eberhard Ortland (University of Hildesheim) and Prof. Dr. Ulrich Winko (FH Munich).


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