Situated in the city centre of Frankfurt, between the town hall and the Main river, is the completely refurbished and newly extended Historical Museum Frankfurt. Kossmann.dejong designed three exhibitions – one temporary and two permanent – that highlight the many faces of Frankfurt. A special role was given to a number of artists, the city’s residents and one unique robot. The eye-catcher is a giant snow globe in the introduction space, which can also be glimpsed through a periscope from the museum square outside.
Eight times Frankfurt, eight different perspectives
For the ‘Typically Frankfurt!’ exhibition, which connects the entrance with the new building, Kossmann.dejong designed a snow globe – one of the most ubiquitous tourist souvenirs – to start the museum experience. It presents the story of Frankfurt from multiple perspectives, instead of chronologically. Inside the globe, visitors encounter eight clichéd representations of the city illustrated in eight different scenes built as scale models. These stereotypes include ‘Frankfurt = City of Finance’, ‘Frankfurt = City of Crime’ and ‘Frankfurt = Perpetual Construction Site.’ Eight international artists were each assigned to one model and given carte blanche to express their own interpretations of a specific cliché – based on scientific research by the museum and technical specifications. “We consciously decided not to copy reality but instead left the power of imagination to both the artists as well as the visitors,” says Herman Kossmann, co-founder of Kossmann.dejong.
Visitors choose which cliché they would like to see, “just like a jukebox,” Kossmann adds. A specially-designed robot then transports the chosen scene up from the cellar. An accompanying audiovisual setting, designed by Amsterdam-based animation studio Shosho, is projected on the surrounding walls, adding an informative and atmospheric layer to the conceptual models. This results in a spectacular entrance that will surprise local as well as national and international visitors to the museum.
Participate in the city lab
On the first two floors of the new building, the ‘Frankfurt Once!’ exhibition (designed by another design practice) showcases the history of the city. However, the museum wanted to not only show the city’s history but also gain insight into how the city today is perceived and experienced by its residents. In response, Kossmann.dejong designed ‘Frankfurt Now!’ as a space for research, reflection and discussion. At the heart of the exhibition is a permanent 75m² scale model of Frankfurt. Museum staff asked residents about their favourite and the ugliest places in the city. Their responses are interpreted by Rotterdam artist Herman Helle into an intricate, lively scale model of the city. Watch the film about the model here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=diAhhY42BZ0.
The participatory project Stadtlabor [City Lab] forms part of ‘Frankfurt Now!’. Here the museum travels beyond its premises to research how residents experience Frankfurt, for example, through workshops, city walks and lectures. For the lab, Kossmann.dejong created a space, based on flexible accessories, for changing exhibitions and workshops. The themes and content are derived from meetings and discussions with residents. In the first temporary exhibition ‘Explore Frankfurt Now!’, Kossmann.dejong explains how the lab works. Residents and visitors are actively challenged to participate in the debate, and themselves become part of the Historical Museum Frankfurt, a museum about and engaged with the city.
Kossmann.dejong also designed the book Die Schneekugel [The Snow Globe} to accompany the exhibition ‘Typically Frankfurt!’. Images and text share the background behind the snow globe, including stories from the eight artists and intriguing details of the scale models. The book is available in the museum shop and online via Henrich Druck + Medien.
Concept & design: Kossmann.dejong
Content: Historisches Museum Frankfurt
Light design: Marc Heinz
Film and Animation: Shosho
Design Frankfurt Modell: Herman Helle, Hotel Modern
Snow Globe modell artists: Florian Goettke, Daniel Verkerk, Edwin Zwackman, Marc Giai-Miniet, Michael Birn, Rob Voerman, Stephan Mörsch, Tracey Schnelling
Engineering and build: InSynergie GmbH
Architect: Lederer Ragnarsdóttir Oei
Book design: Kossmann.dejong
Book publisher: Historisches Museum Frankfurt