Neue Nationalgalerie Berlin visible in its revamped charm

Mies van der Rohe, David Chipperfield,

BBR/Thomas Bruns,

Berlin, Germany,



Berliners have been gifted a lovely end-of-year surprise. The Neue Nationalgalerie, first designed by Mies van der Rohe, is slated to reopen to the general public in August 2021 after years of restoration work by David Chipperfield Architects, and the swathes of fabric protecting this icon of modern architecture have finally been removed.

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Neue Nationalgalerie Berlin visible in its revamped charm Anyone passing near the Kulturforum area—a collection of museums, libraries, and concert halls in Berlin—in the past few days would have seen parts of the roof and facade of the Neue Nationalgalerie reappearing every day, a bit like an architectural advent calendar, culminating just a few days ago with the removal of the scaffolding and cover sheets, like a Christmas present from the city to architecture and art lovers.
The New National Gallery in Berlin’s Kulturforum is a world-renowned iconic building, first designed by the architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. The epitome of Modernism was built between 1965 and 1968 and was used uninterruptedly for almost half a century. This continuous use left its mark on the building, and the passing of time also brought to light the changing needs for contemporary museums and exhibition techniques. And the need for restoration became even more apparent when a close examination of the building showcased some serious issues with the construction technique, the climate-control and fire system and, more importantly, the building’s fabric.
Since 2016, the German Federal Office for Building and Regional Planning (BBR) has been meticulously restoring the Neue Nationalgalerie for the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation (Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz), which oversees the museum. David Chipperfield Architects, known for their work respecting existing architecture, like in their refurbishment of the Neues Museum, were appointed to develop the concept and design. The architect Dirk Lohan, Mies van der Rohe’s grandson, contributed with his experience as project manager in the architect’s offices when the museum was first built in the ‘60s.
The restoration work essentially consisted of three main stages. The first was all about preparing the site, therefore dismantling and storing tens of thousands of original building components, including light fixtures and wood fittings, the demolition of components not worth protecting, and removing polluting substances. The next step was to refurbish the building envelope, with repair work to the highly damaged concrete and renovation of the steel structure of the steel-and-glass facades. The final stage involved extending the building, reassembling the original natural stone, wood and steel components and renewing the building’s technical equipment. As part of the structural work, 1,600 square metres of new glass were installed in the upper exhibition hall, a new coating was applied to 15,000 square metres, and 500 weld seams were repaired on the steel structure. 800 existing ceiling lights were supplemented with LEDs, while 196 ceiling tiles and the 2,500 square meters of Striegau natural granite flooring have been reinstalled throughout the building. Outside, the museum’s original plantings of honey locusts and silver maples were restored on the terrace and in the sculpture garden. At the same time, work has already begun for the first installation and commissioning of the building and upgrading the surrounding public urban environment, including the pavements.
So, we might say that the first, most significant step towards reopening the Neue Nationalgalerie has been taken. To follow will be the commissioning and first installation of all the restored works of art and historical furniture designed by Mies van der Rohe. Pandemic permitting, the Neue Nationalgalerie will reopen to the general public in August 2021, but in the meantime, it stands proudly before passers-by in all its restored beauty.

Christiane Bürklein

Project: David Chipperfield Architects
Location: Berlin
Year: 2020-21
Images: BBR/Thomas Bruns
Find out more: https://www.smb.museum/museen-einrichtungen/neue-nationalgalerie/home/

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