by • 19 Nov, 2011 • Buildings, InspirationComments (2)11349

Reflections on the beauty of austerity in Kunstmuseum Kolumba

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

“If I am to speak for ten minutes, I need a week for preparation; if fifteen minutes, three days; if half an hour, two days; if an hour, I am ready now.” – Woodrow Wilson

Kolumba is probably the most beautiful and thoughtful museum experience in the world. At least, the world I have seen. The museum is built on top of, and integrated with, the remains of the former St. Columba church, in Cologne. The intensely minimalistic interior with concrete floors, walls and ceilings and an occasional wooden detail goes well with perhaps the most austere exhibition design imaginable. Everything, absolutely everything is in perfect balance, and nothing can be taken away. Sometimes it feels even the visitor is part of the design.

Photo by Fabian K. on Flickr.

Visiting Kolumba was an almost religious experience to me. I was in Cologne to give a fifteen-minute presentation (three days of preperation) at Expocase about the museum of the future. This kind of thing always gets my energy up; Kolumba got it down and had me reflecting on a lot of topics in the train back to the Netherlands.

Kolumba Art Museum
Photo by Mandy Thomas on Flickr.

The expositions combine traditional religious art with abstract art and design. The current exhibition, >>thinking<<, explores ways to experience the world. Mathematical experiments, architectural sketches, hand-made paper, a random collection of items related to death and soundscapes combine perfectly.

kolumba museum, peter zumthor 1997-2007
Photo by seier+seier on Flickr.

It seems very simple to create a place like Kolumba, but I know it must be extremely difficult to create such a clean and yet commanding experience. It’s not often a place – or play, movie, exposition – really changes me, and even less so when I visit it twice. And at the same time, that’s the biggest strength of culture and the arts: It can provide people with a life changing experience.

To experience this, I highly recommend visiting Kolumba in Cologne. It’s well worth the journey.

Photo by Christian Kintner on Flickr.

Header photo by 010Lab on Flickr.

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