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Wolfgang Jean Stock

An Artist Museum

The city of Neumarkt, which has many highlights of modern architecture in its midst, has a constructional gem with the Museum Lothar Fischer. The prominently designed and through its white plaster glowing building seamlessly fits into the periphery of the City Park with its natural surrounding, while at the same time confidently displays its modern-day spirit it. In the urban setting, it is an important link between the compact inner city and the openly situated school area at the Schlossweiher (Palace Pond), architecturally it is a prime example of contemporary museums’ construction. It is, however, a special case since the museum is monographically dedicated to a single artist, Lothar Fischer, whose work is maintained and managed by a foundation and who spent his childhood in Neumarkt.

The Architecture Firm

It was a lucky decision by Lothar Fischer to commission the architects Berschneider + Berschneider with the planning of the museum. Johannes Berschneider and his wife Gudrun together with their staff have contributed substantially to Neumarkt’s mark on the map of sophisticated architects. Their achievements range from the remodeling of the old city hall to the transparent annex of the historic Riding Stables (Historischer Reitstadel) and new school buildings. It is not a coincidence that the architects are considered substantial contributors to the “new Upper Palatinate style of building”. Additionally, Johannes Berschneider advocates, with increasing resonance, the endorsement of architectural culture through public information and discussion.

 

EnigmaraumEnigma Room

Restrained Chromaticity with Vibrant Color Highlights

The museum’s construction is composed of ashlars of varying heights, which expresses a fresh form language. The façade opens through large formatted, almost flush installed windows or through angular projected display cases, amongst them the display window next to the entrance. The rich contrasting yet disciplined color composition can be seen already on the outside of the building making the entire house seem cheerful: next to the bright white of the walls and the anthracite of the opening elements, the flaming red color of the open-by-day entrance gate, of the counter in the foyer and of the lift shaft in the paned staircase on the park side is vibrant with color highlights. In this way, the architects came into their own.

Planning Dialog

As challenging as the planning of the museum was for the architect, it was new for the artist himself, who had to work with any type of given display accommodations for his previous exhibitions. Now the unique occasion arose, of creating a custom tailored venue for art. Both the artist and the architect knew that this could only be achieved through a trusting and intense cooperation. This dialog, which began with the total overhaul of the first design draft, almost took two years. Lothar Fischer expressed one decisive prerequisite: “In contrast to a museum for paintings, a house for sculptures does not need evenly lit rooms. Sculptural works only have a good effect, if the guided light is used varyingly.”
Because the building is a daylight museum, it was important to determine the right upper- and sidelights. On the one hand, the placement of important works and work groupings was already set; on the other hand, the rooms were supposed to be flexible to a certain degree for changing exhibitions. In order to come to a satisfying conclusion, the architect and the artist examined the possibilities on a model of the building in a scale of 1:20, for which Lothar Fischer manufactured corresponding miniatures of his works.

Lothar Fischer and his Work

The Palatinate Germersheim native artist, who was born in 1933, holds a very individual place within contemporary sculpturing. For one, this is due to his preferred material, easy to form clay, with which Fischer created an equally varied and closed off body of work – from delicate miniatures to space demanding figures like the “Enigma Variationen” (“Enigma Variations”) from the late 1990s. Through his master handling with what is often considered a boring and conservative material, Fischer achieved astonishing results; this was obtained especially through the burnt surfaces, which exude a grand sensual presence somewhere between archaic roughness and frail elegance. So it is in accordance with his commitment that Lothar Fischer was actively part of the artistic departure in Munich after his studies: from 1958 to 1965 as a founder of the legendary, but also politically challenging artists collective SPUR, then a member of the artists collective GEFLECHT. He could feel officially recognized in 1975, when he was called to the University of Fine Arts in Berlin, which gave his works a new creative direction.

The second reason for Fischer’s prominent acknowledgement also by international standards since 1960 is his persistent work in the field of figurative sculptures. Here, he was not influenced by classical, naturalistic traditions of the European academies, but by early art in the Mediterranean area and Romanesque sculptures. His basic goal is the concentration and reduction of sculptures to a simple figure, to a human form, which can be experienced as an independent artistic creation. Lothar Fischer described what moved and motivated him with following words: “My theme is mainly the human in his basic form: standing, sitting, laying, but understood as an ‘art figure’. My focus is on the continuous invention and creation of new figurations, which arise from the means, the materials, and the process. Emblematic, tectonic, elemental formulations, so to say abstract, are my source, but they are filled sensually and lively through the making. The result is an autonomous, sculptural figure.”

 

Ground / First Floor Plan Museum Lothar Fischer

Ground / First Floor

Second Floor Plan Museum Lothar Fischer

Second Floor

Basement Floor Plan Museum Lothar Fischer

Basement Floor

An Inviting Museum

Both the artist and the architect did not want a “treasure chest”, but a museum, which opens the world of art to the world of everyday life. Thus, the large windows bring the appealing surrounding into the building and, vice versa, the house allows several inside views. The picture shows the future room for the changing exhibitions on the first floor with a view to the neighboring City Park. This room is dominated especially by the slim, to the exterior overhanging display cases, which gives the usually tranquil façade a distinctive expression. The art pedagogy, which is situated in the museum’s basement yet has a beautiful connection to the outside world through a window panel facing the park, delivering a lively relationship with the city. To integrate the new museum as attractively as possible, the city of Neumarkt redesigned the surrounding area: in front of the main entrance a large cobblestone pavement leads over the street to the Castle Pond, whereas the green area at the City Park is enhanced through the new café and the neighboring, often frequented library.

“Serving” Architecture

Many museum directors and artists see newer museum architecture very critically. For instance, Jean-Christophe Ammann, who was the director of the Museum for Modern Art in Frankfurt / Main for many years, dealt with the buildings of Robert Venturi, James Stirling, or Richard Meier and he vigorously advocates a return to “functional, neutral rooms”. Like Ammann, many artists do not expect boastful construction art from a museum, but rather well proportioned rooms, entrances and passage ways with precise corners and a subtle flooring, in order to better promote the exhibited works.
This stance was natural for Johannes Berschneider: “From the beginning, the art of Lothar Fischer was the focal point for my designs. The house should serve the collection and not be a work of art itself.” The fact that Berschneider had already acquired several works by Lothar Fischer before meeting him personally played a large role. Through the contact with sophisticated works of art, Berschneider knew that the planning of the museum demanded much sensibility.
The achievement of the architect can be best characterized as a stance of restraint. It was his goal to highlight the different materials and plasticity of the sculptures through the best possible background. Here he followed the wishes of Lothar Fischer to show light works in front of white walls, while darker works should be displayed in front of gray walls, in order to avoid optical harshness with the presentation of the works. This is expressed by the four overhanging display cases on the second floor with double side light, in front of whose gray reverse side the bronze works stand on delicate bases, while the display cases themselves absorb differently sized clay sculptures.

Undisturbed Rooms

The stupendous accuracy of the architect is particularly visible in the exhibition rooms due to their undisturbed design: no element distracts from the experience of the artworks. There are neither baseboards nor lined passages. Lowered ceilings with the usual openings are also missing because the installations run in a shell along the wall. The jointless flooring, which was levigated in five coatings on cement base, has a pleasant structure due to organically flowing forms when inspected closer, however, the surface seems continuously gray.
A further distinction is the treatment of the walls out of supporting cement. They were not coated, but filled white and then lacquered colorless, which gives them a soft tint, in front of which the sculptures are presented superbly. This treatment has also enabled connections of wall and ceiling with utmost precision. The consequential design of the rooms seemingly from one cast combines the differently dimensioned areas to one architectural entity.

Altering Room Experiences

The visitor has no difficulties to explore the museum because the clear floor plan ensures good orientation. The tour through the exhibition spaces can be chosen freely on both floors – not only the insights in each section encourage the visitor to discover the diverse collection, but also the views across the building.
Another important role for the altering room mood are the diagonally or longitudinally focused skylights, which even let in lots of daylight when the sky is cloudy.

Heating and Cooling from the Earth

The Museum Lothar Fischer is also an environmental ideal. With a room temperature of 18ºC (64.4ºF), which is achieved through concrete core activation and solar panels, the heating costs can be kept low. The emissions free and economical heating and cooling system makes the most out of the fact that the temperatures a few meters under the earth’s surface stay constant year-round; in Middle Europe the temperatures are between 12ºC and 14ºC (53.6ºF and 57.2ºF). This is the reason why about seven kilometers (4.3 miles) of plastic pipes were installed in ground touching, constructionally necessary cement components. The plastic pipes were connected to form circuits and attached to the cooling and heating system of the building. In these, a salt solution circulates, which serves not only as a energy source for warmth but also can absorb and channel cooling. Therefore, the carrying ceiling above the basement is used as a heating element. This system is a novelty in German museum building. The use of geothermal energy guarantees a slow gradual change in temperature in the building, from which the artworks out of sensitive materials benefit.

 

Architektur des Museum Lothar Fischer

Architects
Berschneider + Berschneider
Architekten BDA Innenarchitekten
Hauptstrasse 12
D-92367 Neumarkt – Pilsach

Landscaping
Lohrer – Hochrein
Landschaftsarchitekten BDLA
Braunauer Strasse 2 a
D-84478 Waldkraiburg

Structural Analysis
Ingenieurbüro Ströber
Mariahilfstrasse 20
D-92318 Neumarkt

Electricity
Elektroplan Scheidler
Dresdner Strasse 22
D-92318 Neumarkt

Heating / Cooling / Sanitation
Zemlicka & Pruy
Dresdner Strasse 22
D-92318 Neumarkt

Building Ground
Ingenieurbüro Dr. Spotka und Partner
Finkenweg 3
D-92353 Postbauer-Heng

Time Frame
May 2002 Beginning of Planning
June 2003 Beginning of Construction
June 2004 Opening

Enclosed Space
Basement 1,477 m3 (4,845.8 ft3)
First Floor 2,748 m3 (9,015.7 ft3)
Second Floor 1,765 m3 (5,790.7 ft3)
Total 5,990 m3 (19,652.2 ft3)

Gross Floor Plan Surface
Basment 478 m2 (1,568.2 ft2)
First Floor 521 m2 (1,709.3 ft2)
Second Floor 560 m2 (1,837.3 ft2)
Total 1,559 m2 (5,114.9 ft2)

Area
Main Floor Space 815 m2 (2,673.9 ft2)
Thereof Exhibition Space First Floor 239 m2 (784.1 ft2)
Exhibition Space Second Floor 296 m2 (971.1 ft2)
Ancillary Space 161 m2 (528.2 ft2)
Functional Surface 29 m2 (95.1 ft2)
Circulation Area 234 m2 (767.7 ft2)
Total 1,239 m2 (4,064.0 ft2)