Museum of Modern Literature

The Museum of Modern Literature is located in Marbach, on a rock plateau overlooking the Neckar River valley. As the birthplace of Friedrich Schiller, the town’s park already held the Schiller National Museum, built in 1903, and the German Literature Archive, built in the 1970s. The Museum of Modern Literature is Germany’s primary literary archive, home not just to Schiller’s papers, but also a repository for everything from Franz Kafka’s manuscripts to the collective libraries of the country’s great writers. It displays artefacts from the extensive twentieth-century collection in the German Literature Archive, including the original manuscripts of Kafka’s The Trial and Alfred Döblin’s Berlin Alexanderplatz.

Museum of Modern Literature

The Museum of Modern Literature is located in Marbach, on a rock plateau overlooking the Neckar River valley. As the birthplace of Friedrich Schiller, the town’s park already held the Schiller National Museum, built in 1903, and the German Literature Archive, built in the 1970s. The Museum of Modern Literature is Germany’s primary literary archive, home not just to Schiller’s papers, but also a repository for everything from Franz Kafka’s manuscripts to the collective libraries of the country’s great writers. It displays artefacts from the extensive twentieth-century collection in the German Literature Archive, including the original manuscripts of Kafka’s The Trial and Alfred Döblin’s Berlin Alexanderplatz.

The project has created a unified series of enclosed and open-air spaces, pulling the relatively private world of scholarship into the public realm. Embedded in the topography, the museum reveals a single-height elevation to the north, and double-height to the south. The steep slope of the site creates an intimate, shaded entrance on the brow of the hill facing the Schiller National Museum, with its forecourt and park, and a grander, more open series of tiered spaces facing the valley below. On the highest terrace the building appears as a pavilion, providing the entrance to the museum. Slender concrete columns articulate the façade and enclose the entrance. The route through the entrance pavilion and down towards the introverted exhibition galleries gradually adjusts from daylight to the artificial light required for the fragile exhibits displayed.

Once inside, visitors work their way down a grand series of flights of stairs into the exhibition spaces, a sequence of five galleries. These are timber-lined with a richly coloured dark wood and connected to naturally lit, glazed loggias, contrasting the internalised world of texts and manuscripts with the valley beyond. Each space is made unique through subtle shifts in ceiling height, reaching a climax in the smallest room, which is top-lit by a soaring lantern. The other galleries have close-control environments, and are starved of natural light but served by a perimeter light chamber. The visitor can thus step out from the dimmed world of the galleries into an internal loggia that frames panoramic views of the Neckar valley. The walls and ceilings are fair-faced, in-situ cast concrete. Limestone is used internally for the floors, and is also used as an aggregate in the precast, sandblasted concrete elements of the façade.

Date:
2002-2006
Gross floor area:
3,800 m²
Client:
Deutsche Schillergesellschaft e.V.
Architect:
David Chipperfield Architects, Berlin
Partners:
Alexander Schwarz, Harald Müller
Project architect:
Martina Betzold
Structural engineer:
Ingenieurgruppe Bauen
Services engineer:
Jaeger, Mornhinweg + Partner Ingenieurgesellschaft, Ibb Burrer + Deuring Ingenieurbüro GmbH
Site supervision:
Wenzel + Wenzel - Freie Architekten
Photography:
Christian Richters, Jörg von Bruchhausen, Ute Zscharnt for David Chipperfield Architects, Duccio Malagamba, Nathan Willock