On april 25th 1956 the new building of a museum of modern art was decided on the initiative of mayor August Seeling. The purpose was to comprise the prior collections of 20th century art in an attractive building and to present them adequately in a prospective museum of international sculpture.
The assignment was given to the architect Manfred Lehmbruck (1913-1992) — son of the sculptor Wilhelm Lehmbruck from Duisburg-Meiderich. Regarding the very fact that a museum is located in the center of a big city, Manfred Lehmbruck was fascinated by the idea of ’embedding’ the museum in a park to provide “a place of leisure and contemplation” in “a sincere linkage of nature and art”. While, in the opening stage, the single constructional elements with their different heights could be noticed by the viewer as a visible unit, they are covered by dense trees and bushes today. On his way to the very low entrance the visitor passes a plate of concrete with the impregnated saying of Wilhelm Lehmbruck “All art is measure” and comes across the sculpture “Knieende” (1911), which was already exhibited in the Tonhallengarten since the 1920s. The statue has remained the symbol of the museum and the collection dedicated to Lehmbruck and Beuys’ art of objects.
Manfred Lehmbruck has designed the three bodies of building due to their function. Collections of sculpture and painting are comprised in a big room surrounded by high walls of glass, having recourse to the construction theories of Mies van der Rohe. In contrast with this transparent construction of the hall, the architect worked out a three-dimensional building of concrete with centric directions. The inner rooms of the north and the southside are bound by arched walls of concrete. The small windows, constructed in line, make the ceiling almost seem to hover. This sculptural aspect corresponds with the disposition and the illumination of Lehmbruck´s sculptures.
The “Skulpturenhof”, located on a higher level, links the two bodies of the building and opens to the nearby Kant-Park. The big sculptures, which are located here (Henry Moore, Kenneth Armitage, Berto Lardera, David Rabinowitsch, Erwin Reusch), mediate between the building’s geometrically precise architecture and the floating forms of nature.
Soon after the opening of the museum in 1964 it turned out that the growing collections and requirements of the museum needed further enlargements. The council of the town Duisburg had planned the enlargement only in 1983, which was realized on behalf of the concept of Manfred Lehmbruck in cooperation with the architect Klaus Hänsch from Dortmund. Three cubes of different sizes with no windows at all were built on a square foundation. A bridge made of glass (the cafeteria) connects the big hall and the newly gained rooms for temporary exhibitions. The galleries comprise a vast and high inner room, in which art after 1960 (with works by Josef Beuys, Mario Merz, Richard Long and Jannis Kounellis) is presented.