The Zentrum Paul Klee in Bern by Renzo Piano

Place: Bern, Switzerland
Architectural Design: Renzo Piano Building Workshop
Zentrum Paul Klee, Monument im Fruchtland 3, Bern, Switzerland

Zentrum Paul Klee Bern

Exterior view of the Zentrum Paul Klee in Bern; photo © Riccardo Bianchini/Inexhibit.

The Zentrum Paul Klee is a museum of modern art and an exhibition center in Bern primarily,  yet not exclusively, dedicated to the Swiss artist from whom it takes its name.

The museum’s architecture and site
The museum’s building, designed by the Italian architect Renzo Piano and which aspect is inspired by the hilly landscape encircling the city of Bern, is easily recognizable for its wavy metal roof, upon which lawns and agricultural fields have been planted to achieve a complete union of art and nature, coherently with Paul Klee’s artistic vision and philosophy.

What to see at the “Zentrum” 
The Zentrum Paul Klee houses a permanent collection of over 4,000 artworks by Paul Klee. The pieces are usually displayed on a rotational basis, in semi-temporary thematic exhibitions that often combine works by Klee with those by other artists such as Wassily Kandinsky, Sigmar Polke, Alexander Calder, and Henry Moore, to name a few.

Additional activities and services
The Zentrum Paul Klee includes temporary exhibition rooms, a large auditorium, a library, a cafeteria, a museum shop, rooms for special events and meetings, and the Creaviva space, an art workshop especially suited for children. The museum is fully accessible to physically-impaired persons.

The architecture of the Zentrum Paul Klee by Renzo Piano


The Zentrum and its landscape, photo © Riccardo Bianchini/Inexhibit

The Zentrum Paul Klee, in Bern, is more than a museum dedicated to the Swiss artist from which it takes its name. Along with displaying the work of Paul Klee, it is indeed a multi-disciplinary center that organizes a broad range of cultural activities: temporary exhibitions, concerts, seminars, learning classes, and workshops for adults and children in its Creaviva learning facility. But equally important, the ZPK is a place where being involved in a fascinating experience, beginning from its building.

The Renzo Piano Building Workshop conceived the building of the museum as a “landscape sculpture”, inspired both by the surrounding hills and by the concept of an ideal union of art and everyday life that underpins many of Klee’s works, such as his 1929 painting Monument im Fruchtland (Monument in the fertile country) with its stylized pattern of cultivated fields.
Visitors approaching the museum are invited to walk around it, to appreciate how the building combines with the vegetation in a harmonious whole. Such a strict relationship between architecture and landscape is not just visual: the soil covering the museum’s roof is regularly sowed, cultivated, and harvested by the Swiss College of Agriculture and a local farmer, and provides a good amount of organic crops.
The load-bearing structure of the museum is composed of a series of curved metal ribs that create the iconic undulating, wavy roof for which the building is famous.

Zentrum Paul Klee Renzo Piano conceptual sketch

Zentrum Paul Klee, a conceptual sketch by Renzo Piano

Zentrum Paul Klee Renzo Piano site plan

Zentrum Paul Klee, site plan; image © RBBW

The foremost part of the building accommodates public functions and visitor facilities including creative workshops and learning areas, the Kindermuseum Creaviva space, a library, a shop, and a cafe, while the rear part houses the museum’s galleries, an auditorium, and various service areas. A separate restaurant is housed in a 19th-century villa close to the Center.

Zentrum Paul Klee Renzo Piano longitudinal section

Longitudinal section, © RPBW

Klee’s works from the museum’s permanent collection are displayed on a rotating basis by thematic temporary exhibitions which often combine pieces belonging to the Center with pieces on loan from other institutions, thus constantly providing the visitors with fresh views of the Swiss artist’s work.
Overall, the Zentrum Paul Klee is a quiet, fascinating, and inspiring place capable of stimulating, together with art knowledge, also a more relaxed vision of our times.


Photo © Riccardo Bianchini/Inexhibit

Zentrum Paul Klee, Monument im Fruchtland 3, Bern, Switzerland
Open daily except Mondays, and December 24/25

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copyright Inexhibit 2024 - ISSN: 2283-5474