The new Kolumba Museum was built on the ruins of the St. Kolumba church according to blueprints drawn up by Peter Zumthor. It impresses with its walls featuring clay surfaces that are up to 14 metres high.
St. Kolumba was the largest parish of the mediaeval city of Cologne. After the almost complete destruction of the church in 1943, only the remains of walls and a statue of Mary remain preserved which was walled in for protection in the northern choir pillar. It served as a sign of hope for the people at the time. In 1947, the architect Gottfried Böhm built a chapel which would be known as Madonna in the Ruins from then on. The new Kolumba Diocesan Museum to be built will integrate the chapel and create a new urban development highlight. The Swiss architect Peter Zumthor was commissioned with its realisation.
The large surfaces of the interior walls were to be coated without expansion gaps. This ruled out materials that are hard and brittle. Naturally, it was also the aesthetics which led Peter Zumthor to choose clay as a building material. He favoured a light grey colour he developed himself, which soon bore the name Kolumba grey.
The Cologne-based company Stuck & Akkustik Weck realised the challenging task. A two-millimetre thick clay layer was applied with Japanese trowels. It was rubbed with water and quark milk using felt and smoothened until the required quality with its moderate gloss was achieved. An impressive 6,500 m2 of clay plaster was applied on walls that were in part above 14 m high, an exemplary achievement. After a good two years of use, it is above all the easy repairability of the dowel points after the remodelling of an exhibition which should be highlighted.
The museum was inaugurated in autumn 2007. On 29 May 2009, Peter Zumthor received the Pritzker Prize for the Kolumba Museum. It is seen as the Nobel Prize in architecture.