The Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg was built from 1992 to 1994 by the Hamburg architectural firm of Peter Schweger and Partners as a transparent urban loggia. With its extensive overarching glass roof the building marks the south entrance to the town center in the direction of Hollerplatz. The solitary structure stands architectonically in the tension field between Hans Scharoun’s theater structure and Alvar Aalto’s cultural center both key architectures in Wolfsburg.

The center of the museum is the 16-meter high exhibition hall with a quadratic ground plan measuring 40 meters on each side. The impact of the exhibitions benefits from the flexible possibilities available in the large space that allow for an individualized architecture to meet the specific needs of each show. The generous ground plan is particularly suitable for large-scale objects, environments, installations and media art. The hall is two-storied on three of its sides and enclosed by further exhibition spaces. The entire exhibition surface encompasses 3500 square meters. The two-storied studio that can be accessed separately from the upper floor serves as a flexible workshop and presentation area where the educational program and other events accompanying the exhibitions can be held.

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Interior of the museum, © Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, photo: Marek Kruszewski

the japan garden

The Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg is probably the only museum in Europe with a Japan Garden. Originally conceived by the museum’s architect Peter Schweger, the 16 x 32 meter large sculpture court was opened in September 2007 as a place of tranquility and contemplation. The conception of a Zen garden is closely tied to the “Japan and the West: The Filled Void” exhibition that was shown the same year. Inspired by the museum’s transparent technoid appearance that was conceived as an urban villa, the Japan Garden represents a peaceful oasis in the middle of the industrial city of Wolfsburg.

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View of Japan Garden, © Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, photo: Marek Kruszewski

Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Kazuhisa Kawamura from the Fachhochschule Mainz was the partner architect involved in the planning of the Japan Garden. Kawamura has been active in Germany since 1973. Aside from his professorship for representational geometry, the foundations of design and architectural theory he works as a freelance architect in Cologne.

Roofed and furnished with benches, the Japan Garden offers the visitor the chance to unwind and slow down. Looking out across the pebbled area one’s glance meets a wall that lends the garden a sculptural quality on account of its composition and color as well as through its interaction with two other smaller wall slabs. According to the Japanese way of thinking, it is not contradictory to enclose nature in the form of a garden with hedges, walls and buildings but rather a sign of the Japanese sense of beauty. The deliberate combination of planned rationality and random naturalness is characteristic of a Japanese garden. Only when it is bordered like a painting in a frame is the garden recognized as such and appreciated.

Elements of Zen gardens are integrated into the large pebbled area that symbolizes water. The stones and plants were chosen in accordance with their climatic suitability; Japanese bamboos were thus planted alongside local juniper bushes and a maple tree that will develop into a bonsai through continual professional trimming.

Ideally, the garden and the museum are not to be seen as separate architectonic works but rather as parts of a single overall concept. Both environments seemingly flow naturally into each other, creating a symbiosis.

The Japan Garden in the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg is accessible to museum visitors during the museum’s usual opening hours (through the east cabinet to the rear of the large exhibition hall).

The realization of the garden was generously supported by Pon Holdings B.V., Nijkerk, The Netherlands.