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Architecture | Topics | Magazine 7+8/2012

Perforated Metal Skin - Villa Vauban Museum in Luxembourg

In the middle of the green zone flanking Luxembourg's historic centre and resting atop the ramparts of the former Fort Vauban is a museum of the same name. Since 1959 this institution has housed the city's collection of paintings. In 2002, Heirend and Schmit were commissioned to refurbish and extend the building - a late-nineteenth-century bourgeoisie villa nestled in the idyllic park landscape (designed in the 1870s by Edouard André). Despite the considerable size of the new program, the architects were able to sensitively insert the addition to the museum into this historic setting.

Architects: Diane Heirend & Philippe Schmit architectes, Luxemburg
Location: Avenue Emile Reuter 18, L–2420 Luxemburg

Villa Vauban Museum in Luxembourg

Misleading perspective: Only in the park side view the new building seems to dominate the historic Villa Vauban. Photo: Lukas Roth

Seen from the street, the single-storey building massing allows the original building to continue to occupy centre stage. The new structure's inclined roof surfaces allude to the gently modulated landforms. When viewing the addition from the park, one becomes aware of its actual size: the design takes advantage of the topography of the former fortress's moat to bring daylight into the first basement. The second basement, on the other hand, is fully embedded in the earth. These three levels accommodate eleven exhibition spaces; they are connected to the original building via a bright, lofty foyer.

However, the new building has more to offer than skillfully modelled massing and spaces: the treatment of the facades makes a substantial contribution to the museum's convincing mix of autonomy and restraint. Perforated metal that has been bent into a gentle V-shape cloaks the new structure; the surface is animated by the play of sunlight and the shadow created by the nearby trees.

Villa Vauban Museum in Luxembourg

Special atmosphere at dawn: illuminating the façade from the inside the building seems to lose its materiality. Photo: Lukas Roth

In order to match the earth-brown tones of the wood, the architects selected red brass in an alloy consisting of 85% copper and 15% zinc. In cooperation with the manufacturer, they developed a special perforation. The ratio of perforation - each slit measuing 75 x 7.5 mm - of the sheet metal is nearly one to one. In this way, the effect of a homogeneous metallic skin is maintained, but at the same time, the perforation is perceptible from a considerable distance. At dawn and at dusk, a special mood comes about: illuminated from within, the semi-transparent facade cladding almost appears to melt into thin air.

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