Gustav Adolf Memorial Extention

Location: Lützen, Germany
Client: City of Lützen
Pre-selection architecture competition: 2017
Size: 700m2

The Gustav Adolf memorial tells the story of a battle that led to the tragic death of the Swedish king Gustav II Adolf. The memorial is located on the edge of the town of Lützen and is made up of a granite memorial stone, an iron canopy, a chapel, two Swedish timber houses and landscaping. After a mass grave from the Battle of Lützen during the Thirty Years’ War was uncovered, the local government decided to extend the existing memorial area to provide exhibition space showing the grave and other archaeological artefacts.

Over the following 385 years since the king’s death, the significance of the site to its visitors has changed from grieving the death of a famous commander in battle to glorification and cult of personality to remembrance, but also academic rationality. The memorial site shows many historical layers with every generation leaves behind another layer and interpretation. For this reason, ‘layers’ was selected as the guiding theme of the new museum.

The new museum, stone with chapel, and houses form a triangular ensemble to create a new public square. The ground and first floors are offset to create a horizontal building structure which diminishes the perceived height out of respect to the chapel. This is further underlined by the design of the layered natural stone façade which projects forward and backward. The facade facing toward the nearby fields used for growing rapeseed utilises mirrored glass to give a reflection of the former battlefield. In a nod to the historical events that took place here, the building becomes invisible when viewed straight on.

The understated building volume creates interior space suitable for showing the mass grave. On the ground floor, the foyer and shop areas are light and inviting, while the first part of the exhibition area is dark and oriented toward the main exhibit. Arriving to the ‘preshow’ visitors are surrounded by a battlefield making use of projections in a multimedia room to serve as an introduction to the topic.

The main exhibition is focused on two layers: information and spatial experience. The information layer uses vitrines, objects and descriptions in the area adjacent to the main staircase and in front of the mass grave which is placed in the centre of the room as the most important exhibit. Triangular shaped forms emerging from the floor create a barrier to the skeletons and provide surfaces for information displays.

Moving to the first floor, visitors return to a daylit space and an atmosphere of hope area again present. The exhibition on this level is divided into three layers. Vitrines that project horizontally from the walls offer supporting information. Vertical displays at table height allow for multimedia installations. As grand finale to the exhibition a view of the original battlefield opens out from a large panorama window. Here visitors can use virtual reality glasses to take in an augmented reality experience.