Museum | Architecture
From ‘Gründerzeit’ to Modernism
The museum building on Hansaring (1913–44)
The Museum of East Asian Art opened in a building planned by the architect Franz Brantzky (1871–1945) in 1913. Situated on Hansaring, it adjoined the complex of buildings for the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe and the Schnütgen Museum. The design of the interior, with the showcases, was entrusted to the Viennese architect Josef Frank (1885–1967). Together with Josef Hoffmann (1870–1956) he was among the initiators of the Österreichischer Werkbund, formed in 1912. The interior of the museum was radically modern. The exhibits were presented without any adornment against white walls; free-standing showcases and plinths invited visitors to view the works from all sides. In 1944 the museum fell victim to a Second World War air raid.
The new museum building by the Aachener Weiher, opened in 1977
The new building by the Aachener Weiher was built to plans by the Japanese architect and pupil of Le Corbusier, Kunio Maekawa (1905–1986). It is constructed of simple cubes, grouped around a Japanese interior garden designed by the sculptor Masayuki Nagare (b. 1923) on the model of Zen-Buddhist gardens, which represent a symbol of the macrocosm in the form of cosmic miniature landscapes. The island in the pool of the Aachener Weiher (in front of the museum terrace), like the granite sculpture Flag in the Wind placed on it, are also the work of Nagare. This symbiosis of Japanese architecture, garden aesthetics and East Asian art make the building in Cologne a striking, unmistakable place of encounter with the culture of the Far East. The Cologne architect Joachim Jacobs (1927–2012) was responsible for the implementation of Maekawa’s design for the building, while the furnishings were designed by Professor Wolfgang Döring (b. 1934), from the Technical University in Aachen.
The enlargement of the display area, 1994/95
In 1994/95 the museum was enlarged. The original office wing behimd the interior garden was turned into exhibition space, and the administration moved upstairs. This measure created an uninterrupted round tour of the exhibition, starting from the spacious foyer and leading all around the Japanese garden. The architect Joachim Jacobs was involved once more in the enlargement, while Jürg Steiner was responsible for the interior and the showcases, and Robin Uber for the concept of the light grid. As the creator of the garden Masayuki Nagare used the enlargement project as an occasion to come to Cologne from Japan. His concern was to free the garden of various decorative elements, for example a small brick-clad wall and a stone lantern, along with a few shrubs and trees, which he had included in his concept at the urging of the Japan Foundation in the 1970s.
In Japan numerous buildings by Maekawa are protected sites, while his Museum of Western Art in Tokyo’s Ueno Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011. Since 2012 the museum in Cologne with its interior garden, foyer, exhibition rooms and esplanade has also been a protected heritage site.
Tuesday to Sunday
11am – 5pm
Every first Thursday in the month
11am – 10pm
The museum is closed on 24th, 25th and 31st December and on 1st January. Also closed on Carnival: 28th February to 5th March.
All under Heaven – The Museum of East Asian Art by the Aachener Weiher, 40 Years (November 15, 2018 - June 30, 2019)
€ 9.50 / € 5.50
KölnTag on the first Thursday of the month (except public holidays): free admission to the Permanent Collection and "All under Heaven" for all Cologne residents.
How to get here
Public transport: Tram routes 1 and 7 and bus route 142, alight at ‘Universitätsstrasse’
There is a car park at the museum
The museum is barrier-free. Disabled toilet available.