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Monday, September 20, 2010

Museum Villa Vauban

Museum Villa Vauban in Luxembourg by Philippe Schmit architects

Photographs are by Lukas Roth.

The Villa Vauban Musee d'Art de la Ville de Luxembourg displayed "its collection of painting originally acquired by wealthy private collectors in the 18th and 19th century" in, appropriately, an urban villa dating to 1873. In 2002 the City of Luxembourg commissioned architect Philippe Schmit for a renovation and extension of the villa, which opened on the first of May this year. The Museum asserts that the "contemporary extension engages in a stimulating architectural dialogue with the historic building."

How does this occur? The first two images at left indicate how, depending on one's location, the extension either overpowers the existing villa or respects it by stepping back and staying low. Schmit's design basically grips the old building like a capital "T" in plan, with the top forming the road elevation to the north and the stem connecting to the existing and forming the main entry. So from the south the villa retains its frontal symmetry, with the trees rising above the addition's perforated brass facade.

The juxtapostion between old and new is certainly striking -- maybe even jarring for some -- but the architect buried half of the volume underground, so the addition reduces its impact on the existing's exterior appearance. The old's articulated whitewash elevations are opposed by the new's folded red-brass panels, perforated as mentioned. This wrapper is broken only by the entry and some selective openings that illuminate corridors and stairs; otherwise light enters the galleries via skylights.

Inside the spaces veer from bright red (following the footprint of the existing villa) to minimalist white and concrete walls "roughened up with a sledge hammer so as to reveal the small quartz crystals." Not surprisingly the white spaces are the galleries and the concrete defines the circulation.

Exterior and interior of the extension may be aesthetically removed from each other, but they respond to their particular contexts: the brass facade to the trees and landscaping more than the villa itself, and the inside to the display of art and movement between galleries.

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