Architect Modernizes A German Museum, With Lots And Lots Of Scaffolding

An incomplete-looking, steely under-construction structure in front of Munich’s premier modern art museum strangely seems to complete it.

“Temporary … noisy … destruction … momentary improvisation … experimentation.” That’s how German architect Jürgen Mayer describes his latest project, a temporary pavilion parked just outside the Pinakothek der Moderne museum in Munich. In staccato-like fashion, Mayer unspools the kinds of planned and spontaneous activity that the structure, called the Schaustelle, has accommodated over its seven-month stay at the Pinakothek.


The Schaustelle is a towering permeable volume consisting primarily of scaffolding. The bottom part is walled off to enclose an exhibition and gallery space. The upper half is left naked, bare-bones, and, if you didn’t know any better, defiantly incomplete. It looks like a cross between a music festival soundstage and a construction site. But you won’t find chanting crowds or hard hats here, just galvanizing curators and art fans.

Designed and built to be open-ended, flexible enough to absorb any program a curator could throw at it–performances, workshops, installations–the Schaustelle forms a compelling foil to the more traditional museum experience found in the Pinakothek, which is currently concluding a lengthy renovation. The museum’s new director, Andres Lepik, had decided that the interval time shouldn’t be wasted but turned into a creative touchstone for interdisciplinary exhibitions. He charged Mayer and his Berlin office, J. Mayer H. Architects, with creating a framework to host these anomalous events.

“A global tendency of opening up art institutions to the public, having more involvement and cross-interaction, and making museums more lively, is the conceptual context in which Schaustelle became a very visible prototype,” the architect explains. “What is usually impossible to happen in a protected and safe environment of a museum institution is now at hand.”

Funnily enough, when Lepik approached Mayer about the project, the architect had the idea for its form already on file. He’d arrived at the concept several years ago, while touring the construction site of the Metropol Parasol in Sevilla–his office’s most famous work. Mayer had taken notice of the structural juxtaposition between its endearing mushroom-top wooden lattice and the rigid metal scaffolding holding it up. He stored the image away for later use. After attempting and failing to implement the scheme at various junctures, he found the perfect opportunity at the Pinakothek.

It’s a plug-and-play ethos extrapolated at the scale of the city. Visitors can ascend the raised platform and walk through the cat’s cradle of steel tubes and reinforcement bars. The space can be arranged according to almost any activity, so the idea goes. In one scenario, visitors can sway this way and that on seating tethered directly to the scaffolding.

The Schaustelle’s extreme modularity finds precedents in utopian space-frame schemes from the 1970s. Mayer cites architect Cedric Price’s Fun Palace (“a cultural machine in constant transformation,” he says) and Mies van der Rohe’s Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin (“an open flexible hall under a large roof structure”) as references that helped guide the design process. Both these projects, just like Mayer’s 40 years later, prescribed structures that “remain open for an appropriation by individual projection and interpretation.”

About the author

Sammy is a writer, designer, and ice cream maker based in New York. He once lived in China before being an editor at Architizer.