Earlier this year, student Benno Schmitz of the Beuth University of Applied Sciences Berlin received an assignment with one overarching instruction: merge culture and nature into one structure. Working with his professors over the course of a semester, Schmitz took this mission to heart, designing a building that tied the landscape surrounding Bonn, Germany, which is close to where he grew up, into the city’s urban fabric. After months of work, Schmitz believed his vision for The Museum of Contemporary Arts in Bonn could be worth more than a grade, so he submitted his creation to the Vectorworks Design Scholarship. An esteemed panel of global judges agreed, selecting Schmitz's work as the best among over 2,000 entries submitted to the program and honoring him with its $10,000 grand prize and Richard Diehl Award.
One of the biggest challenges Schmitz faced while designing his museum were the damaging effects of industry on much of the natural landscape on the edges of Bonn, which featured heavily in his plans. Instead of being discouraged, Schmitz embraced the manmade changes to the environment, specifically the artificial cliff faces caused by mining. In fact, his award-winning design hangs 150 meters above the ground atop an abandoned stone quarry.
“The site for the museum is marked by industrial ruins, as well as environmental damage from the mining of coal and stone,” says Schmitz. “The whole topography of the area has been changed by humans. The museum brings new culture to this place where I grew up and uses humankind’s impact on the environment to its advantage. Without the sheer rock face left behind from the stone quarry, the design wouldn’t be as visually impactful, and without the museum, this wasteland of space wouldn’t be as meaningful. Only together do they work perfectly.”
To prepare for his assignment, Schmitz researched case studies on the building format of art museums and other large-scale projects. His subsequent design process involved drawing to test for heights and rooms sizes within a precariously perched structure, and thinking about the constructability of the project in addition to its aesthetic. “I ran into problems with scale in particular,” he says. “It’s a very large and complex building with a lot of rooms and a lot of people to fit in them. With the building being up on the edge of the quarry, there are few roads going up there to move materials. Luckily, I had two professors who were very supportive of me as I worked on the design.”
All of that hard work and research paid off, as Schmitz’s project stood out to the scholarship program’s judges for both its distinctive use of space and its clearly defined purpose. Schmitz is incredibly excited about winning the scholarship, which he found out about in Vectorworks Campus, the German version of the For the Love of Design student newsletter, and plans to use the prize money to attend workshops, as well as pay for books and design supplies. So, what does he have to say to anyone considering applying to next year’s Vectorworks Design Scholarship? “Stop dreaming and just do it! Just start designing.”
To see Schmitz’s design for The Museum of Contemporary Arts in Bonn, as well as all of the other designs honored with Vectorworks Design Scholarships across the globe, head to the winners’ gallery.
This article first appeared in our bimonthly academic newsletter, For the Love of Design.