The Kolumba is a highly specialized, indeed a conceptual, museum just outside the very center of Cologne. Designed by the noted Swiss architect, Peter Zumthor, I have to say that my reaction to the Kolumba is no doubt tainted by Zumthor's initial design for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) which was howled at by critics, as if they were wolves, for its mis-reading of the city and its context. Fortunately, Zumthor has changed that design to one that is more appropriate, if expensive to build.
But trying to keep an open mind, I have to acknowledge that the Kolumba has some very good features. Its use and, indeed, resurrection of a ruined church to create a new modern museum is strikingly interesting. But I think it's also important to describe accurately what it is, which is that the museum is more of a conceptual artwork itself than a flexible building for showing art. Just as the architectural idea was to combine the old and new, so is the display of art idea to combine the old and new. This goes only so far before it becomes tedious.
Then, there are the minor problems with the building. For a while, we became paranoid and thought that the many museum guards were following us around. But then, we realized that they were in fact warning us not to trip before we stepped into each next room that there was a half-step level change. Isn't the architect or contractor supposed to know that steps are to be of a certain height to keep this from happening? Fortunately, the number of visitors to the Kolumba, based upon what I observed during my visit, is low so the guards can pick each new one out and play, as we say in basketball, man-to-man defense.
Now, I don't want to completely bash this place. As noted earlier, it is original and certainly deserves a visit. But it does stir the question: should a museum be more a showcase for the architect than a showcase for the art? Truly, since the Wright's Guggenheim in NYC that question has gone unanswered.