Swiss National Museum: a modern dialogue with history.

_project: Swiss National Museum
_architecture: Christ & Gantenbein
_location: Zurich, Switzerland

In the heart of Zurich, the Swiss National Museum's contemporary extension, designed by Christ & Gantenbein, harmoniously blends historical and modern architectural philosophies. The project highlights a sensitive integration approach, where the new construction dialogues with the museum’s eclectic historical style.

Christ & Gantenbein design philosophy, which emphasizes a respectful interaction with historical contexts, was central to the integration process. "Our buildings and projects, especially those dealing with the existing, infuse contemporary elements that address current and future needs," the architects explained in an interview. This approach is realized in the Swiss National Museum, where a bridge-like volume connects the old and the new, maintaining architectural continuity. The contemporary extension does not only extend the existing structure but complements it through an origami-like roof landscape and a robust concrete facade that reflects the museum’s original architectural language, characterized by a mix of church, palace, and city gate elements.

One of the primary challenges in this project was ensuring the new edition did not overshadow the original historic structure. To achieve this, the office adopted a strategy of "creative reconstruction," by using modern materials and techniques while paying homage to the past. "We used materials such as tuff aggregate in the new wing’s façade, which resembles the stone used in the older building, and the concrete used is as robust as the 19th-century walls," they noted, emphasizing their commitment to maintaining the integrity of the museum while innovating with modern engineering solutions.

Since the completion of the extension, the public’s response has been overwhelmingly positive. Visitors have praised the way the new structure enhances the museum’s exhibitions, improves accessibility, and fosters greater engagement. Additionally, the transformation of the area in front of the main entrance into an active public plaza highlights the project's success in reinvigorating the museum’s urban context.

Through this project, Christ & Gantenbein have not only preserved the narrative and aesthetic of the Swiss National Museum but have also set a precedent for how contemporary architectural practices can sensitively and successfully engage with historical structures.

credits

_article written by Daniela Moreira Silva
_film by 9sekunden
_sound design by Gil Amado
_curatorship by Architecture Hunter
_image scroll by 9sekunden and Roman Keller

_drawings by Christ & Gantenbein

1. Ground Floor Plan 

2. First Floor Plan

3. Second Floor Plan

4. Site Plan

5. Section B-B

6. Section C-C

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