Chipperfield Architects reveals refresh of Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin
Chipperfield Architects reveals its refurbishment of the iconic modernist architecture at the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin, Germany
You don’t need to be an architecture scholar to know of the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin. Designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and opened in 1968, the museum is not only a key cultural destination within the German city, holding a rich collection of modern art, but it is also a global icon of 20th century modernism. But years of use and no major renovation works since its original opening left this seminal building in need of an update. Enter David Chipperfield and his team at Chipperfield Architects, and the venue has just reopened following an extensive, six-year-long facelift.
The architects worked with the landmark piece of architecture’s clean, almost minimalist form that became emblematic of the International Style its creator represents – a glass-wrapped low, orthogonal shape using grids, metal and concrete that was pioneering for the time. It is also the only project by Mies van der Rohe to be realised in Europe, before the modernist emigrated to the USA.
The refurbishment works include the interior and exterior of the main structure as well as its outdoor sculpture gardens, prioritising ‘a minimum of visual compromise,’ explain the architects. Functional and technical updates ranged from air-conditioning, lighting and security repairs, to redesigning the café, museum shop, disabled access and art handling infrastructure. Intervention to the original fabric of the building, however, was kept as light as possible.
‘Taking apart a building of such unquestionable authority has been a strange experience but a privilege. The Neue Nationalgalerie is a touchstone for myself and many other architects. Seeing behind its exterior has revealed both its genius and its flaws, but overall it has only deepened my admiration for Mies’ vision. Our work was therefore surgical in nature, addressing technical issues to protect this vision. Certainly carrying out such a task in a building that leaves no place to hide is daunting, but we hope to have returned this beloved patient seemingly untouched except for it running more smoothly,’ says David Chipperfield.
Apart from the architectural celebrations linked to the building works, the reopening also sees the launch of a number of new exhibitions and displays in the gallery’s vast spaces – including one focusing on American sculptor Alexander Calder. §