Galerie Zink’s Architecture: A Conversation

We are not embarrassed to say it: our gallery is beautiful, located in stunning landscape, with the perfect contemporary architecture for our artists. It is something to be proud of and we love that we can share this experience with everyone that visits.

A lot people may be confused when we tell them our location: Waldkirchen? Where is that? Bit random. To us, it is not random at all. Although not entirely planned, we’ve been slowly building our roots there since 2013, and in 2019 we opened our doors for our inaugural exhibition at our current address. Being in this remote area with a large plot of land, we have the luxury of creating a space completely suited to our needs. And we have our architects Atelier Dimanche to thank for that. Late last year we were nominated for the Architecture Guide Germany 2021, and we are so proud of it. So we decided to take this opportunity to share some more insights with you.

The architecture is a perfect marriage between eras, functions, and materials.

Our facade is made of the existing base made of quarry stone masonry and the attached wooden structure. The open wooden facade acts as a filter for light. This creates a balance of solidity and openness.

As you enter through the archway, you get to the foyer with an open staircase made of exposed concrete, with flooring of fired bricks in a herringbone bond. Both elements are raw and exposed, and are simultaneously rustic and contemporary. On the upper floor, in contrast to the entrance, is a bright, two-story exhibition room with a central skylight. The middle section is two story tall which allows for large works to display properly. The studio and apartment are located on the top floor, floating above the exhibition space. They have views into the gallery as well as to the horizon via generous dormer windows.

We have a page on historical information about the location, check out our About Waldkirchen page here.

Galerie Zink Galerie Zink. Shot by Erich Spahn
Galerie Zink by Benjakon Galerie Zink. Shot by Benjakon

Below is a conversation with Michael about the unique gallery space we have!

1. How did you decide on this location?

MZ: My family and I found the old parish farm in Summer 2013 and we fell in love with the old house on the hill immediately. So we moved there 6 weeks later, just as our private home. The way it sits on top of the hill, overlooking the vast landscape is quite rare to find. The house is next to the old church, so we are part of the village community, but also kind of on our own. The landscape and the nature here is largely untouched and it is an absolute privilege to be so immersed in it.

The house is big. So already in the first spring, March 2014, we invited French artist Gregory Forstner to do a little show there! To be honest I didn’t initially intend to move the gallery to Waldkirchen, but we learned that artists also love this spot. So we just went on like that.

Waldkirchen Galerie Zink 1 Galerie Zink. Shot by Benjakon

2. What was the process of getting it from a farm house to a contemporary art gallery?

MZ: The main house was in over all good shape, with some things to renovate. Bit by bit and step by step. But the old barn next door was not great and we didn’t have a real use for it. It became a spare space for unused things piling up, before they finally get thrown away.

So we decided that the barn could become the new gallery. But we soon discovered that there is no chance of working with the existing construction. So from the original barn, there is actually not much left. We had to tear most of it down. We kept the huge foundation on the valley side and the old exterior walls. But we had to demolish the rest, and all other elements are newly built.

3. What was the original brief to the architects for the gallery space?

MZ: We first had some of our own ideas for renovating the barn, but they weren’t really right. So we asked our architects, Mathieu Robitaille and Tamara Henry, to take a look at the plans and give me some advise. I knew them before as collectors of contemporary art. They don’t care about trends and fashions, and have a very good eye for interesting artists.

From that it took off to a full collaboration. As I said they are very dedicated collectors, so they understood right away the needs of a gallery. They also have experience and understanding of what it means to be in a village, an hour away from the next big city.

We agreed on a few core values. The first was that the architecture has to be so interesting, that artists want to exhibit there. Secondly, the architecture has to be so good, that the artists, visitors, and clients are willing to come all the way to Waldkirchen. And thirdly, it has to provide a unique experience to enjoy and cherish. It was always about sharing an experience! Sharing an experience with the artists as well as passionate collectors.

Klaas Rommelaere 'Dark Uncles' 2020 at Galerie Zink Klaas Rommelaere ‚Dark Uncles‘ 2020 at Galerie Zink

4. Did you have a clear vision for the architecture since the beginning?

MZ: No, I definitely did not. I had ideas for how I would like to work, but Tamara and Mathieu came up with good ideas right away and then we only had to find the right solutions to execute!

5. What are some unique features you could include with your original designs?

We were able to integrate the building with the surroundings so rich with history and nature, but also look contemporary to suit our artistic program. Like it grew from the former cow stable and parish house, but still makes a statement separate from the rest.

Thankfully I didn’t have to design the space myself. My architects always had great solutions for the concepts we had.

There are not many exact features I could detail, but we were able to stay true to some important characteristics. For example, we need ample open spaces in our architecture that create room for the art. As a gallery, this is the most important thing. Another thing is to maintain the natural elements in the space. The landscape is the remarkable thing that drew us to this space in the first place. So we wanted to have the connection between the vast expanse of nature outside and the cultural space inside.

6. What about the residences on site?

MZ: The idea started years ago. We had a small project in New York a few years ago. In that time we offered a nice apartment on 121st Street to our artists as a residency program, and after we would do an open studio. We did the same thing here in the old house, before we built the gallery. It was a nice collaboration and we liked it a lot, so we wanted to keep on with that idea.

I asked the architects to integrate this idea in the new building. So now we have a small apartment on the top floor of the gallery building, with a studio across the hallway. Both with plenty of light and an amazing view. The artists who already stayed there had a good and productive time. So that’s really exciting.

View from artist studio with Atelier Lachaert Dhanis sculpture

Guest apartment above the gallery

Artist studio occupied by Matías Sanchez

7. Any final thoughts on building your own gallery space?

MZ: For me it was first of all a great experience to work with really good architects. To find simple solutions for complex questions is a rare quality. Now after nearly two years in practice, there is still not a single spot, where I think this could have been done better, or we missed a chance. Tamara and Mathieu started their own office after the project and we will keep working with them for our next project. I also want to take this opportunity to thank our local engineer on our side, Mr Weigert! He was a real star for solving all the technical problems for us.

Another thing was that it changed my way of working. Curating shows, developing ideas together with the artist. But also in the encounters with the collectors who come here, it changed a lot. We give more time to experience the space, and also the environment where all our work lives.

About Waldkirchen

Waldkirchen has been a place of pilgrimage since 8th century AD. The church and the parish house built in the 1880s were the heart of the village. Perched atop a hill with sweeping views, this was the perfect location for Galerie Zink Waldkirchen.

In Fall 2017, we began remodelling a neighbouring building to create the new gallery space, art storage, and an artist studio. Designed by Swiss architects from Atelier Dimanche – Mathieu Robitaille & Tamara Henry, the space opened officially on 6 April 2019.

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