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The architects Herzog & de Meuron designed an unusual space for Schaulager. Their task was to design a warehouse for the open storage of contemporary art that had optimal climatic conditions and was available by appointment. The building was also intended to be a site for conservation, research and dissemination. Rather than an anonymous warehouse, the spacious building was to be conceived so as to produce a specific and unique place.
At 7,250 square metres, art storage on the three upper stories occupies the bulk of the total area of 16,500 square metres. There are 3,650 square metres on the ground floor and in the basement available for exhibitions. The permanent installations by Robert Gober and Katharina Fritsch occupy 260 and 390 square metres, respectively. The administration occupies 800 square metres. The art handling department and the workshops occupy another 800 square metres. The 144-seat auditorium and the seminar room occupy 250 square metres. The remaining 3,100 square metres are for technical and other facilities.
Schaulager is the home for the works in the collection of the Emanuel Hoffmann Foundation that are not currently on exhibition. It is a new kind of space for art. It is neither museum nor a traditional warehouse. Schaulager is first and foremost a response to the old and new needs for the storage of works of the visual arts. It dispenses with box storage and transforms the foyers of the exhibition halls into autonomous facilities, independent of any museum, with specific qualities and functions. It is a pilot programme that allows works of art to lead their own lives behind the curtains, a life that does not simply consist of an endless wait for public presentation.