Modern Meets Legacy

Modern Meets Legacy

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Text by Chanintr Sirisant

David Chipperfield stands as a luminary in the world of architecture, captivating us with his nuanced approach that seamlessly blends modernity, elegance and timelessness. A British architect with over three decades to his practice, Chipperfield has garnered acclaim for his minimalist and classical design sensibilities. His distinguished career has been marked by a long list of esteemed accolades, including the prestigious Pritzker Prize, Praemium Imperiale, Royal Gold Medal, EU Prize for Contemporary Architecture – Mies van der Rohe Award and multiple Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) awards.

In an exciting moment of his career, Chipperfield was commissioned in 2008 to envision an extension for the Kunsthaus Zürich museum in Switzerland. Over the years, as we passed through Zurich, we witnessed the cocooned promise of this extension across from the venerable old wing. In November 2021, after the grip of the pandemic had begun to release its hold, bringing with it the opportunity to travel once again, we found ourselves in Zurich, greeted by the fully realized form of the new wing.

The Kunsthaus Zürich extension emerges as a crystalline geometry enveloped in the embrace of Jura limestone. Nestled along the northern periphery of the museum’s grounds, this architectural masterpiece forms an underground connection to the existing Moser building. Encompassing a generous expanse of 23,300 square meters, the extension encompasses exhibition galleries, a library, a restaurant and a boutique, thus transforming the amalgamated museum into Switzerland’s largest. Playing host to an array of modern and contemporary artworks, the extension was envisaged to accommodate the burgeoning museum collection.

Imbued with a sense of place, the design of the Kunsthaus Zürich extension is a conversation with its context. The limestone façade pays homage to the legacy of traditional stone structures that dot the surroundings, while its precise geometric contours seamlessly harmonize with the existing Moser edifice. An additional gift bestowed by this extension is the creation of a fresh public realm, an urban square that unfurls to the south, inviting interaction and contemplation.


Chipperfield’s hallmark lies in reinterpreting familiar materials, and in this extension, Jura limestone becomes his artistic medium. A masterful symphony is woven as this indigenous stone is juxtaposed with cast stone, exuding the quintessential Chipperfield aesthetic. Amidst the overarching modernity and restrained aesthetics, the design thrives on the subtlety of unexpected elements. An exemplar of this approach is the bronze door handle cast in the form of a donkey head, adorning a door clad in brass plating. This juxtaposition serves as a reminder of the museum’s enduring legacy, an institution that deftly interlaces tradition and innovation, past and present, without compromising integrity.

We highly recommend a visit to the Kunsthaus Zürich Chipperfield wing on your next trip to Zurich. It is a beautiful and thought-provoking building that is sure to leave a lasting impression. After your visit, you can enjoy a meal at the Kronenhalle restaurant, which is just a few blocks away.


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This article appears in Winter 2023 issue of Chanintr Living Download full issue

Or explore the entire library Visit the Chanintr Living Archive

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