The Deutsches Architekturmuseum (DAM) opened in 1984 as the first museum in Germany dedicated solely to architecture and building culture. The historic Wilhelminian-era villa on Frankfurt’s museum mile on the banks of the river Main, the Museumsufer, incorporates a house-in-house concept to focus attention on architecture with its own innate architectural means of design.
The idea of a museum of architecture as a forum for educational discussions and policy development emerged within the efforts to bring various cultural institutions together on Frankfurt’s Museumsufer. A major role in its planning was played by the art and architecture historian Heinrich Klotz, who wanted to revitalise the historical building by giving it a new purpose. As its first director, he founded the DAM in 1979, opening the newly designed spaces five years later with an exhibition on post-modernism.
Klotz commissioned the architect Oswald Mathias Ungers, who was considered to be a strict formalist, to convert the historic villa that had been built by Fritz Geldmacher in 1912. In his designs, Ungers sought “clear spaces that touch upon the essence of architecture” – far removed from all fashions. The DAM is one of his most important works in Germany.
The rooms of the former private house were actually too small and its structural capacity unsuited for public use. In order to expand the exhibition area, Ungers therefore surrounded the villa with a glass hall that takes up a large part of the property. He removed the core of the old building, stripping it down to its foundation walls, and added a “house-in-house”. In this way, Ungers’s architecture itself became a part of the exhibition.
Behind the Wilhelminian-style façade are several types of spaces, all completely in white: a gabled roof, columned hall, functionalist stair and classic agora occupy five levels (on three storeys) within the spatial structure of a strictly square grid. The DAM is surrounded on the outside by a three-metre-high wall made of red sandstone blocks that is designed to be an open loggia towards the street.
Not only with its exhibitions but also in symposia and lectures, the museum promotes the discussion of both current and future architectural issues and urban design challenges. The museum’s temporary exhibitions and its permanent collection focus on German and international architecture from the 20th century right up to the present day. [DB/DK]
Contact and opening hours
AddressDeutsches Architekturmuseum (DAM)
60596 Frankfurt am Main