The exterior of the museum mirrors the internal architecture, taking up the historical and geological approach of the main brewery building that was hewn from the rock. Landscaping by Günther Vogt is part of the project around the structures of the buildings to restore and consolidate the historic properties of the site. The framework of the ensemble is an important element in the perception and the historical understanding of the place. It is supplemented by additional, partly even low walls, where stones from the river with different colours and structures, cut into slabs of different sizes and thickness, are sorted into the dark, natural stone wall like an encyclopedia of the natural history of the site, like a Landscape Library. The concept combines both elements: the place to withdraw from the dynamic museum life and the exposition of the natural history. At the same time, the walls supplementing the architecture and the legibility of the monastic history are defining the new museum complex.
Muzeum Susch comprises three buildings; the Bieraria (brewery) and Bieraria Veglia (old brewery) which, interconnected with the tunnel, will host the exhibition space, foundation headquarters, and a restaurant; and Chasa della Santa which will house the artists’ residence, Temporars Susch. The challenge for the architects has been to unite these structures visually as well as functionally.
As the complex of buildings has strong historical and landscape value, protected by Cantonal Historical Preservation Law its additional rooms have been created by excavating into the solid mountain rock below and beside the brewery. The first stage of the project involved over a year of explosions and excavation, shifting 9,000 tons of Amphibolite, a local rock, before beginning construction.
To connect the economic building of the monastery complex (Bieraria Veglia) with the later added main building (Bieraria), an underground passageway will lead visitors underneath the street into the Bieraria opposite. One of the first encounters inside the museum is with the natural mountain rock grotto, historically used for the cooling and storage of beer, interacting with the building’s history in a playful dynamic between old and new. This space will eventually form a unique gallery for site-specific artist commissions.
Additional floor space almost tripled inside the brewery building which will comprise now of 1,500 square meters of exhibition space in total. The original central cooling tower of the brewery has been extended by four meters into the ground to a total of 17 meters in height.
The architects Chasper Schmidlin and Lukas Voellmy said, “It was clear to us that this was a space with huge potential, and should form the ‘core’ of the museum. Where other museum buildings may have a grand staircase as a focal architectural feature, this vast tower punctuates all stories of the building and now houses one of the first site-specific artist commissions: a monumental steel structure by Monika Sosnowska”.
In addition to the sculpture by Sosnowska, the museum will be defined by a series of permanent, site-specific installations by international contemporary artists, which engage with the architecture and the idiosyncratic structure of the site. Each built-in artwork plays a part in shaping the evolving character and distinctive layout of the space, inviting a unique sense of choreography with temporary works on display which will occupy the majority of the building space.