Kiel Maritime Museum

Kiel, Germany

Multifunctional instead of fish trade

With the aim of concentrating the fish trade in a central location, the City of Kiel initiated the construction of a fish market in 1908, right in the harbour basin on the Inner Firth. Only two years later, a distinctive building opened featuring a pointed arch roof, embellished facades and two huge sea water tanks sunk into the hall floor. Comparably high booth rental prices accompanied by rather low turnover, a lack of space during fish auctions and ultimately the new sea-fishing market opened on the estuary of the River Schwentine in 1948 ensured however that the significance of this marketplace swiftly declined and the building was soon used as a grain store as well as retail and office space. After emerging practically unscathed from the Second World War, the fish market seemed doomed to become a new multi-storey car park building in the late 1960s. The fact that it has been a listed building since 1972 – despite opposition by the City at the time – can be attributed to committed building historians and citizens' initiatives whose efforts finally paved the way for the maritime museum opened in 1978.

And the building has enjoyed a new appearance since its general refurbishment in accordance with plans penned with great care and a pleasant degree of clarity by the architect Günter Szymkowiak in 2014. Apart from restoration of the historical building structure and static upgrading of the supporting structure, the measure focussed on the particular desire to get the interior space encompassing 700 m² into shipshape for facilitating contemporary museum operations, whereby this by no means merely concerned adequate presentation of the extensive collection depicting Kiel's maritime history but rather integrating the actual building as the most important and largest exhibit. Furthermore, the interior of the fish market aimed to conjure up associations with the original building use.

In order to revive the previous appearance of the building in terms of the flooring, the red brick introduced in the late 1970s was removed and replaced with the remaining original granite slabs in the section of the central axis. For all other areas (exhibition space, café, museum shop, new sanitary facilities etc.), the goal was to find a solution which corresponded with the colorfulness, haptics and obvious naturalness of the granite floor while being robust, durable and easy to clean. Within this context, the planners, the preservation authorities, museum management and the urban real estate sector discussed solutions involving linoleum and natural stone which were not however implemented as they would not have led to the desired spatial impression and/or would have exceeded the given cost framework.

After detailed samples of all kinds of new floorings, the large-format tiles from the Valley series offered by Agrob Buchtal gave rise to exhibition areas conveying a uniform design – small-format tiles were ruled out from the beginning as they would have made the interior look like an indoor pool facility. Thanks to the large formats of 60 x 120 cm and slim joints of merely 3 mm, the flooring to be seen today forms an equally subtle yet elegant framework for the exhibits: lightweight sailboat models and large oil paintings as well as a submarine fragment and a 12-tonne ship engine. A harmonising appearance with the rather rough and irregular granite slabs is not only ensured by the natural raw materials offered by Valley (colourful clay minerals and earths) but also by the “earth brown” colour and the earthy relief typical of these porcelain stoneware tiles featuring multiple finegrained surface textures.

The floor tiles not only harmonise with the aesthetics and current museum usage but also with the original designation of the old building, thanks to their robustness, durability and water-tightness. The Protecta coating applied in the factory, for example, acts as stain protection increasing resistance to dirt while simultaneously dispensing with complex subsequent impregnation processes. Accordingly, the tiles are essentially less complicated in terms of cleaning than the original granite slabs in the fish market which used to have to be sprayed with water and cleaned after each fish auction in order to satisfy requirements on hygiene. Not least thanks to the new floor covering, a multifunctional room has evolved which can now be used as a backdrop for a wide variety of activities and events. The fact that it is even possible to imagine a fish market opening up here again some day is indicative of the high design and concept quality of the overall refurbishment which has in turn ensured that the Kiel Maritime Museum is meanwhile a very popular place to visit.

Photographer: Daniel Sumesgutner