A well-attended auditorium at the Wiesbaden Museum with numerous architects in the audience showed great interest at an event on 9 September 2019, which provided information about the design concept of the Reinhard Ernst Museum. Following a brief welcome by acting host Jörg Daur, who heads the Wiesbaden Museum since Alexander Klar’s departure, Peter Bitsch from the Wiesbaden Architecture Centre (WAZ) and Hans-Peter Kissler from the Association of German Architects (BDA) introduced the event. Bitsch once again reviewed the plans that have been developed for the property at Wilhelmstrasse 1 and discarded again over the years; he described the long road that led to the approval of the site for construction of the Reinhard Ernst Museum. Kissler introduced the 91-year old architect and Pritzker Prize winner Fumihiko Maki and his Maki and Associates practice in Tokyo, before inviting Michel van Ackere to take the stage and give the keynote speech.
Ackere, an honours graduate of Harvard University’s Faculty of Architecture, a longstanding business partner of Maki and project manager for construction of the museum in Wiesbaden, first presented cultural edifices created by Maki and Associates – including the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto or the Yerba Buena Centre for the Arts in San Francisco. He talked about the encounter that laid the foundations for the friendship between Reinhard Ernst and Fumihiko Maki and how both established the House of Hope in Natori as their first successful construction project together.
The architect then described the procedure for planning the Reinhard Ernst Museum. He explained how his team took a close look at the local development of large and small houses, traffic routes and architectural axes around the construction site. As to the requirement to fit in with the cityscape and buildings in the neighbourhood, this also included the need for the museum construction to comply with certain functional conditions – such as in relation to avoiding direct sunlight in order to protect the works of art. Over 60 models and numerous planning changes were necessary to achieve the final design. Its quality was also highly praised by the Wiesbaden design advisory board. Van Ackere provided insights into numerous features of the museum construction, including a staircase suspended from thin steel struts, solutions for directing daylight, differentiated spatial concepts to present paintings in all kinds of dimensions or the wide-ranging view from the main entrance to the ninth exhibition room. This division of the enclosed space into different levels is derived from traditional Japanese architecture, as Michel van Ackere demonstrated using visual examples. The inside courtyard, which will be covered by a Japanese maple tree, is also inspired by Far Eastern culture. The architect projected floor plans and computer visualisations on the wall and elucidated all the areas of the new museum in detail.
When asked why no visual traces of Wiesbaden’s widespread historical legacy were included in designing the façade, van Ackere replied, “It’s not a villa but a museum.” He said he was sure that despite its modern shape and constructional originality, the building would fit in well with the cityscape and he concluded his lecture with the reasonable hope that “everyone will be happy” when it opens in 2022. Numerous visitors then took the opportunity to examine the architectural model on display in close-up and to exchange their views of the museum face-to-face with Michel van Ackere as well as the hosts from WAZ and BDA.