The MAKK building was designed by Rudolf Schwarz (1897-1961) and Josef Bernard (1902-1959) as a ‘treasure house for the arts’. The building was inaugurated with all due ceremony by the Federal President Theodor Heuss on 24 May 1957.
Being the first newly constructed (1953-1957) museum building in post-war Germany, it initially housed the Wallraf-Richartz Museum and the Museum Ludwig. After those two museums moved into a new building, the structure designed by Rudolf Schwarz has, since 1989, been home to the Museum of Applied Arts.
Erected on the former site of the Friars Minor Monastery, which was demolished in 1855, the museum’s building is directly attached to the preserved medieval Friars Minor Church, organised as a four-wing complex around a central courtyard. It thus deliberately mirrors the layout and architectural style of the former monastery. Additionally, parts of the cloister have been integrated into the complex. The contemplative ambience of the cloister still prevails in the courtyard, a true oasis in the busy city centre, with a fountain by painter and sculptor Ewald Mataré(1887-1965). Featuring an angel with a painter’s palette, the fountain was created following a competition commemorating the 500th anniversary of Stefan Lochner’s death. The fountain is one of the site’s original features, as are the column and crossbeam, also designed by Mataré, that emphasise the northern side of the courtyard.
The three-storey brick building has a strong vertical articulation with pilaster strips, window rows and parallel pointed gables. From the street-facing side, the building appears simple and closed, revealing its cathedral effect only after the visitor has humbly walked through the low-ceilinged reception area, as Rudolf Schwarz had intended. The interior space is dominated by the central hall with an open stairway and galleries that lead to the exhibition spaces, some of which are stunning sky-lit halls.