Caruso St John, Bjarke Ingels Group, Diller Scofidio & Renfro and Stanton Williams vie for £71m Kunstmuseum Bern project


Kunstmuseum Bern’s Stettler Building

Thirty-nine teams of architects have been accepted into the competition to redevelop the fine arts museum in the Swiss capital of Bern – out of a total of 148 expressions of interest.

Caruso St John, Bjarke Ingels Group, Diller Scofidio & Renfro, Stanton Williams and Tony Fretton Architects are among the practices cleared to progress in the fray to reshape the Kunstmuseum Bern, which houses works by Pablo Picasso and Paul Klee.

Stanton Williams will work with Swiss practice GM Architectes on its bid, while Tony Fratton will work with Blättler Dafflon Architekten, which is based in Zurich.

The competition is seeking proposals to refurbish the art museum’s 1879 main building, designed by Eugen Stettler, and to replace a 1983 extension by local practice Atelier 5 with a more sustainable building that has better access and additional exhibition space.

Museum bosses said the Atelier 5 building needed to be replaced because it could not be renovated to a standard that would meet current expectations of a museum.

Nina Zimmer, director of the Kunstmuseum Bern – Center Paul Klee, said the level of interest the project from architects had been “very gratifying”.

“With the planned replacement building, we want to create an ecologically, socially and economically sustainable art museum for the people of Bern that enables great art experiences and becomes one,” she said. “It will be a place of encounter, reflection and inspiration for everyone.”

Building Design understands that the budget for the project is in the region of 80m Swiss francs – £71m at today’s exchange rates.

Three previous attempts to redevelop the Kunstmuseum Bern have failed because the city’s Unesco World Heritage Site status was a block to their approval. Museum bosses said lessons had been learned from “past mistakes”.


The first stage of the architectural competition for the project will run this spring, with the second stage due to commence over the summer. Judging for the winning project will take place early next year. The museum is expected to close from 2027 to 2029 for construction work on the project.

The competition jury includes Annabelle Selldorf, whose controversial proposals to upgrade the Sainsbury Wing of London’s National Gallery were approved by Westminster City Council in November. The panel is chaired by Thomas Hasler, managing partner at Swiss practice Staufer & Hasler Architects and a professor at Vienna University’s Institute for Architecture and Design.

Of the 39 teams currently taking part in the competition, 23 are exclusively Swiss, eight are from international practices and a further eight are multinational collaborations. Caruso St John, which has offices in London and Zurich, is defined as a Swiss entrant.

Bern 3

The area shaded in solid pink indicates where the new building, which will replace Atelier 5’s extension, will be located