The CentrePasquArt was opened in 1990 in Biel/Bienne’s historic City Hospital. The neoclassical building, built between 1864 and 1866, stands on the foothills of the Jura, in the Seevorstadt quarter of Biel/Bienne. A generous donation to the museum allowed plans to extend the museum to be drawn up in 1996. The redevelopment was to provide additional exhibition space for contemporary art as well as a representative foyer. This included building an annex on the hospital’s east side and carefully renovating the building. In 2008, the former old people’s immediately adjoining the building’s west wing was added in 2008, adding rooms that are today rented out as gallery space or artist studios.
From the outside, the CentrePasquArt presents itself as an open composition consisting of three unequal parts: the historic hospital building, the subsequently added wing of the old people’s home, and the new building’s contained cuboid. Whereas the annex appears clearly distinct from the existing building when seen from the street, the two buildings are closely linked on the side facing the hill. At the rear of the hospital, the L-shaped body links to the stairwell like a joint to synchronize the museum’s different levels, making them accessible in each direction. The annex not only serves to extend the CentrePasquArt’s core building, it also brings the entire edifice together into an overarching whole. New and old come together as a system of rooms, each supporting and connecting the other in meaningful ways.
The angular structure of the annex has three levels, each matched to the corresponding level of the hospital building in height. The annex further establishes its connection to the historic building with its interpretation of the building’s historic type, as is evident from the high windows and the plinth-like yet diaphanous first floor. The coloration provides additional subtle connections. The large artificial stone slabs used to face the façades contain sand and gravel made of granite, which gives the slabs a gray-green hue and complements the yellow plaster of the historic building.
Visitors enter the new building through a doubled glass curtain. The expansive, well-lit foyer with its reception space and cloakroom provides a space for events with large audiences. Beyond this lies a small courtyard that separates the building from the steep hillside. From here, natural lighting floods the halls. The layout already takes into account the possibility of further extending the building to the northeast. Such an extension would both change the building’s balance and bring move the entrance closer to the center.
Where the architecture of the historic building requires the exhibition space to unfold as an enfilade of small rooms, the new building’s exhibition space is generous in its dimensions and suited to displaying contemporary art. The second floor has three rooms of equal size with light from two tall windows either side respectively. The massive, 365m2 main hall on the top floor is named Salle Poma in honor of the patron. This room has been reduced to essential qualities, with the only dynamic aspect being light. Here, the tradition of the classic skylighted gallery space is concentrated in its highly purist form.
Competition: 1st prize, 1994
Client: Centre Pasqu'Art Foundation
Location: Seevorstadt 71, Biel, Switzerland
Gross Floor Area (GFA): 3.837 m² (total), 2.598 m² (old building), 1.239 m² (new building)
Use / Function: exhibition spaces of the collection and of temporary exhibitions, 'Salle Poma', entrance hall, café
Structural Engineer: Dr. Mathys & Wysseier
Mechanical Engineer: tp AG für technische Planungen
Landscape Architect: Kienast, Vogt + Partner