The Museum of Modern Literature is art museum in Germany that was designed by David Chipperfield Architects for Deutsches Literaturarchiv Marbach. The museum is located in Marbach’s scenic park, on top of a rock plateau overlooking the valley of the Neckar River. As the birthplace of the dramatist Friedrich Schiller, the town’s park already held the National Schiller Museum, built in 1903, and the Archive for German Literature, built in the 1970s. Displaying artefacts from the extensive 20th century collection from the Archive for German Literature, notably the original manuscripts of Franz Kafka’s ‘The Trial’ and Alfred Döblin’s ‘Berlin Alexanderplatz’, the museum also provides panoramic views across and over the distant landscape.
Embedded in the topography, the museum reveals different elevations depending on the viewpoint. By utilising the steep slope of the site, terraces allow for the creation of very different characters – an intimate, shaded entrance on the brow of the hill facing the National Schiller Museum with its forecourt and park, and a grander, more open series of tiered spaces facing the valley below. A pavilion-like volume is located on the highest terrace, providing the entrance to the museum.
The interiors of the museum reveal themselves as one descends down through the loggia, foyer and staircase spaces, preparing the visitor for the dark timber-panelled exhibition galleries, illuminated only by artificial light due to fragility and sensitivity of the works on display. At the same time, each of these environmentally controlled spaces borders onto a naturally lit gallery, balancing views inward to the composed, internalized world of texts and manuscripts with the green and scenic valley on the other side of the glass. A clearly defined material concept using solid materials (fair-faced concrete, sandblasted reconstituted stone with limestone aggregate, limestone, wood, felt and glass) gives the calm, rational architectural language a sensual physical presence.