German Film Institute and Museum
With its characteristic blend of architectural styles, the German Film Institute and Museum, known officially as the Deutsches Filminstitut & Filmmuseum (DFF), is an impressive example of the repeated architectural reinterpretation of a Wilhelminian-style villa. The architect Helge Bofinger initially integrated the museum into the historical shell in 1984 as an intervention in postmodernist style. And between 2009 and 2011 the building was again thoroughly remodelled by the architectural firm Blocher Partners.
The mix of new buildings and converted patrician homes that make up Frankfurt’s Museumsufer district reflects the range of architectural debates of the 1980s. The city’s head of cultural affairs at the time, Hilmar Hoffmann, was a decisive driving force behind the gathering of various cultural institutions along this stretch of the river Main. The primary goal was to enhance the cultural attractiveness of the riverbank. In addition to the DFF, there are now 14 other museums in the immediate vicinity of the Main.
The villa, now a listed historical monument, was built in 1910 by Friedrich Sander. In the early 1980s, Helge Bofinger transformed the building to meet the needs of presenting exhibitions. Only the villa’s shell remained, supplemented by a new rotunda at the entrance, where a marble staircase alludes to the grand foyers of 1930s American cinemas. After gutting the villa’s interior, Bofinger inserted a skewed cubic form into the square floor plan, implementing his house-in-a-house concept. His intention with this house-in-a-house concept was to create a lighting atmosphere of rich variety reminiscent of the film medium.
However, the increasing number of visitors and changing demands for exhibition space meant that, after some years, this nested architectural concept proved ill-suited for museum use and archival work. A thorough modernisation, undertaken between 2009 and 2011 by Blocher Partners, was to give the building a new face. The architects removed Bofinger’s house within a house, and the listed façade remained untouched. The remodelling was preceded by lengthy disputes – Helge Bofinger was anything but enthusiastic about the plans and condemned the destruction of his work.
By establishing a clear layout with large, open spaces and generous amounts of glass and light, Blocher Partners created a completely new spatial experience. Where the rotunda once stood, the architects moved the staircase to the east side of the entrance and enlarged the exhibition area by 700 m². A glass plane set in front of the façade that recalls a cinema screen greets visitors as they enter. The film museum reopened in 2011 with a new permanent exhibition. [DB/DK]