Contemporary Architecture

KKL- Jean Nouvel

It was a quite chilly afternoon in the city of Luzern or Lucerne in Switzerland. I was on my first boat cruise on the Luzern lake enjoying the spell binding beauty of the scenic nation when this building caught my attention.  Well I was heading to the city  with no knowledge of the great names it had in store. The flat extruding roof structure and the extruding façade convinced this to be the work of a fine architect. And when the woman at the information desk told me that this museum was designed by Jean Nouvel I wasn’t that surprised.

So here is a slideshow and then a description on the building :

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Originally French architect Jean Nouvel planned to build the new concert hall in the shape of a ship going directly into the lake. For town planning and ecological reasons this idea could not be realised. Nouvel reworked the project and decided to channel the water into the building instead. “Inclusion” is the term he uses to describe his idea of bringing the outside in and taking the inside out. Jean Nouvel’s interpretation of this concept was to use water channels that lead directly into the building and a roof that projects over the lake.


The height of the widely projecting roof diminishes to only a few centimetres the closer it gets to the roof edge. Visible only as a thin edge the line of the roof appears to dissolve the mighty thrust of the steel structure. The flat aluminium panels of the underside strengthen this impression of lightness: they reflect the waves of the lake, which in turn reflects the roof of the KKL Luzern. This interplay with the idea of reflection is a conscious move by Nouvel.  The materials used for the structure change the view and impression of the building depending on the incidence of the light and the viewing angle. The water in the channels and basins underline the expression of reflection.

Building elements:

The two water channels separate the part of the building with the Concert Hall from the Lucerne Hall and the Foyer, which is in turn separated from the conferenceand museum section.
These three elements of the building are lined up side by side like ships in a dock, each with their own formal identity. They are united by the wide expanse of the projecting roof, which covers a large part of the Europaplatz below. The backbone of the entire structure is a service wing, which accesses each unit of the building.

The transparency of the building is in stark contrast to the Concert Hall, characterised by opaqueness. Jean Nouvel decided to use unusual colours for the Concert Hall section: garnet, dark green and midnight blue. In its impact this part of the building is reminiscent of the large theatres and opera houses of Europe. The Concert Hall itself is lined with wooden panels in a lustrous reddish tone. The curved shape of the outer wall bulges into the angular foyer, like the case of a string instrument. The low-level windows provide postcard-size views of the outside, focusing the eye on the splendours of the town and the surroundings of Lucerne. The corridors leading into the Concert Hall section have been kept intentionally low to magnify the impressive impact of the Concert Hall’s dimensions on entering.

The Lucerne Hall is multifunctional and sober in appearance. A cube of space offset to the rear of the hall provides space for a spacious foyer orientated towards the lake while the Hall itself has its own distinctive charisma as a black box with blue wooden flooring.

The conference and museum section facing the railway station is encased in a visual effect of expanding and contracting latticework that interprets the façade as a transparent screen, like a variation on the architectural theme of the “brise-soleil”.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s