EXPANDED MUSEUM ARCHITECTURE
The Lenbachhaus ensemble is a complex structure, the product of various additions to the original elements. In 1900, after Lenbach acquired the neighboring homes, an extension was built to connect the studio to the villa, but the outward character of the ensemble as whole remained unchanged.
When the Lenbachhaus became the home of Munich’s municipal gallery in 1924, Hans Grässel built a two-storey extension along the northern edge of the existing complex; echoing Gabriel von Seidl’s architecture, the new wing complemented the artist’s villa and studio to create a harmonious three-wing ensemble. If this building is an exemplary piece of architectural adaptation on the outside, its interiors show Grässel’s allegiance to the New Objectivity movement with its preference for clear forms. In time for the museum’s inauguration in 1929, the entire ensemble, which had been white on the outside, was painted ochre to underline the architectural unity of the different parts.
A bombing attack in July 1944 destroyed the Städtische Galerie almost completely. Reconstruction proceeded rapidly, but much of the damage was only provisionally repaired. As early as 1947, the first exhibitions were presented in the northern wing. The studio building, of which only the exterior walls remained standing, was rebuilt between 1951 and 1953, followed by the skylight rooms in the northwestern corner.
The extension in the southwestern corner of the Lenbachhaus, designed by the architects Heinrich Volbehr and Rudolf Thönessen, was inaugurated in conjunction with the Olympic Games in 1972. Without a logical and clearly laid-out connection to the existing buildings, it always remained an alien addition to the Lenbachhaus’s three-wing ensemble, and in 2009, as the complex was being prepared for the general renovation, it was demolished to make room for Foster + Partners’ new extension.
Rising visitor numbers
Lenbach had already opened the doors of his private villa and especially of the studio to guests and selected members of the interested public. When the Städtische Galerie was established in the complex in 1929, it was expected that the museum would draw around 10,000 visitors annually. Starting in the 1970s, rising public interest in modern art and the museum’s dynamic exhibition program featuring international art gradually increased the number of visitors. Most recently, attendance figures averaged more than 200,000 visitors per year, with as many as 400,000 visitors in peak years. A crucial factor in this development has been the Kunstbau, a large exhibition space built in a void above the Königsplatz subway station and opened in 1994. Between 2009 and 2013, the Lenbachhaus underwent a general renovation and a new extension was built based on the designs by Foster + Partners architects.