The refurbishment of the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin, an icon of twentieth-century architecture, is now complete. In a digital ceremony on 29 April 2021, the keys will be handed over to the client – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (Berlin State Museums) and Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz (Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation). The Neue Nationalgalerie will subsequently re-open in August 2021.
Planned and built from 1963 to 1968, the steel and glass structure is the only building designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in Europe after his emigration to the USA. After almost fifty years of intensive use, the listed building required a comprehensive refurbishment. In 2012, David Chipperfield Architects Berlin was appointed to refurbish the building.
The existing building fabric has been refurbished and upgraded to current technical standards with a minimum of visual compromise to the building’s original appearance. The functional and technical upgrades include air-conditioning, artificial lighting, security, and visitors’ facilities, such as cloakroom, café and museum shop, as well as improving disabled access and art handling. The necessity of an extensive repair of the reinforced concrete shell and the complete renewal of the technical building services required an in-depth intervention. Around 35,000 original building components, such as the stone cladding and all the interior fittings, were dismantled to expose the shell construction. After their restoration and modification where necessary, they were reinstalled in their precise original positions.
The key to the complex planning process for this project was finding a suitable balance between heritage conservation and the building’s use as a modern museum. The unavoidable interventions to the original fabric within this process had to be reconciled with preserving as much of the original substance as possible. Though the essential additions remain subordinate to the building's existing design, they are nevertheless discreetly legible as contemporary elements.
The refurbishment project does not represent a new interpretation but rather a respectful repair of this landmark building of the International Style.
David Chipperfield about the project: “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.”