“The Langen Foundation building is the largest work of art that I have ever purchased.” (Marianne Langen)
The exhibition building initiated and endowed by the collector Marianne Langen is situated on a former NATO base amidst a swath of Lower Rhine landscape. The collector Karl-Heinrich Müller developed a visionary project for these grounds in 1994, aiming to coalesce art and nature to form a unique synthesis.
Following an invitation by Karl-Heinrich Müller, the Japanese architect Tadao Ando visited the Rocket Station in 1994 and experienced its original state. Enthusiastic about Müller’s plans, Ando developed an architectural model that was to become integrated into the project. When Marianne Langen first saw Ando’s plans in the year 2001, she quickly decided to have this building erected as the final, and also the largest, work of art in her collection. Acting on her personal precepts, she refrained from accepting any outside funding.
Tadao Ando’s pronounced love of concrete and his feel for the specificity of a site likewise played into his design for the Langen Foundation. He thus invoked concrete, glass, and steel while also adapting the building to the topographical scheme of the surrounding ramparts. The latter were only opened on one side to facilitate the entry area, which is highlighted by a four-metre-high, semi-circular concrete wall with an incised portal that offers a view of both the building and the large anterior reflecting pool.
The exhibition venue, which opened its doors in 2004, is assembled from two interconnected building tracts of respectively different architectural nature. Abutting the elongated concrete slab veiled in glass at a forty-five-degree angle is the main building tract, which is comprised of two parallel cubes that are entrenched nearly six metres deep into the ground. Running between the two tracts is a large open stairwell resembling a stairway to heaven, leading from the depths back up into nature.
The Langen Foundation offers three exhibition spaces totalling an area of 1,300 square metres. Situated within the ground-level concrete slab is the so-called Japan Room – an unusually long and narrow gallery conceptualised by Tadao Ando as a space of “tranquillity” especially for the Japanese segment of the Langen Collection. The two subterranean exhibition rooms, with a ceiling height of a surprising eight metres, were in turn designed to accommodate the modern part of the collection.
Characteristic for many of the buildings designed by this Pritzker awardee is the visible structure of the installed formwork panel of smoothed concrete, which is oriented to the size of the Tatami mats and, together with the holes of the formwork anchors, yields a distinctive visage. In the Langen Foundation building these structures are consistently visible, even from the inside in places.