Joanneum Museum Quarter, Graz
The Joanneum museum quarter (Joanneumsviertel) is a cultural complex in central Graz that comprises three museums: the Neue Galerie, the Natural History Museum, and the Multimedia Collections.
The complex consists of three historical buildings connected through a beautiful underground wing, completed in 2011 after a design by Spanish architecture office Nieto Sobejano and Austria’s eep Architekten.
The Neue Galerie (New Gallery) is the leading museum of modern and contemporary art in Graz since the city’s famous Kunsthaus is mainly used for temporary exhibitions.
The museum houses a notable collection of paintings, sculptures, photographs, drawings, and media artworks dating from the 19th century to the present day, including works by Johann Nepomuk Schödlberger, Egon Schiele, Marcel Duchamp, Victor Vasarely, Mario Merz, Michelangelo Pistoletto, John Baldessari, Damien Hirst, Olafur Eliasson, and Pipilotti Rist. The museum also includes a special section, the Bruseum, dedicated to Styrian contemporary artist Günter Brus. Along with the permanent exhibition, the Neue Galerie also features temporary exhibitions and special events.
The Natural History Museum (Naturkundemuseum), completely redesigned in 2013, is mainly dedicated to Earth science and Biology and features a permanent exhibition covering botany, geology, paleontology, mineralogy, and zoology. The program of the museum includes temporary exhibitions, guided tours, and educational programs.
The Multimedia Collections (Multimediale Sammlungen) is a museum dedicated to audiovisual works, including photographs, films, and audio recordings with a collection of over two million pieces.
Fully accessible to physically impaired people, the Joanneumsviertel complex also includes a public plaza, a library, and a cafe-restaurant.
The Joanneumsviertel center by Nieto Sobejano
The Joanneumsviertel is the cultural heart of Graz. The capital city of the Austrian region of Styria is renowned for the exceptional quality of its exhibition venues, including the famous Kunsthaus designed by Peter Cook and Colin Fournier, whose blue volume marks the city’s skyline from the Schlossberg hill.
Founded in 1811, the Universalmuseum Joanneum is the institution that manages most of the museums in Graz and its surroundings. In 2005, the city government developed a master plan to refurbish an area in central Graz with a view to giving proper accommodation to three museums: the Neue Galerie, the Natural History Museum, and the Styrian State Library.
After winning an architectural competition organized in 2006, Spanish architect Nieto Sobejano and Austrian firm eep Architekten were selected to design the redevelopment of the new quarter, called Joanneumsviertel (Joanneum’s quarter).
Joanneumviertel, views of the central plaza.
Along with the complete renovation of the existing buildings, the project, completed in 2011, comprises a new visitor center.
Entirely located underground in the area of a former garden, the center’s two-level trapezoidal wing connects the three historical buildings of the museums and the State Library and accommodates a centralized lobby, temporary exhibition spaces, storage areas, the library’s lending area, an auditorium, and various visitor facilities, including a cafè-restaurant and a shop.
Ground-floor plan and cross-section of the complex.
The iconic extension conceived by Nieto Sobejano is marked by a sequence of circular shaft wells providing natural lighting to the below-ground rooms. The largest of these cavities, 13 meters across, is the main access route to the Joanneum complex and leads the visitors to the underground lobby where they are received, informed, and directed toward the three museums and the library through a number of staircases and elevators.
Along with providing enhanced visibility and access to the old buildings, the project provided Graz’s historic center with a new public plaza, equipped with playful and colored street furniture, where culture, art, and the city ideally embrace one another.
The entrance lobby with the circular light wells.
The materials that the architects used for the visitor center – bare and plastered concrete, glass, and perforated metal – the custom-designed wooden furniture, and the generous natural light poured by the lightwells into the interior space contribute to making the building a remarkably welcoming and airy space.
The main lobby and the library’s lending area.
Interior views of the Neue Galerie, the modern and contemporary art museum of the complex.
The Natural History Museum, interior views.
Photos by UMJ / N. Lackner, courtesy of Universalmuseum Joanneum
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