NEUES MUSEUM, MUSEUMSINSEL, BERLIN
David Chipperfield Architects restored the museum, which had been damaged and partly destroyed during World War II. Parts of the interior were exposed to the elements for more than 60 years. The architects’ office was guided by the concept of “complementary restoration” developed jointly with restoration architect Julian Harrap. Since its reopening, the Neues Museum has won numerous awards. Narration & photographic reportage of Museum.
In 2009, the Neues Museum was the third museum on the Museum Island to be reopened. This means that all five exhibition locations are now open to the public again for the first time since 1939. The original construction of the Neues Museum began in 1843 based on plans by the architect Friedrich August Stüler. It opened in 1859, being the first building of the “sanctuary for art and science” envisioned by Friedrich Wilhelm IV, and the second building on today’s Museum Island following the Altes Museum. Today, the Neues Museum houses the Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection, the Museum of Prehistory and Early History, as well as selected objects from the Collection of Classical Antiquities.
Friedrich August Stüler, a student of Schinkel, planned the Neues Museum as part of a larger overall concept. The building has an almost rectangular ground plan, and its longitudinal axis runs parallel to the Kupfergraben. For the exterior design of the building, Stüler drew on the neo-classical architecture of the Altes Museum.
Since 1860 an arcade has enclosed the Neues Museum and since 1878 the adjoining Colonnade Courtyard as well. In the course of a complete renovation, the southern cupola, which was completely destroyed during World War II, and the northwest wing were rebuilt in their original structure but in a modern style.
The Neues Museum was heavily damaged and partly destroyed during World War II. While the other buildings on the Museum Island were reconstructed after the war, the Neues Museum was left in its damaged state. It was not renovated for decades. Only in the last years before reunification were some protective measures taken.
ARCHITECTURAL COMPETITION AND PLANS
In 1993, tenders for an international competition were invited for the reconstruction of the Neues Museum. However, the results were not satisfying. After a second competition, the office of David Chipperfield Architects was commissioned in 1997 to restore the building. At first there were deliberations to make the Neues Museum into the central entrance of the Museum Island, and to guide visitors to the Altes Museum and the Pergamonmuseum via the first floor.
This would have meant exposing highly fragile historical rooms to heavy flows of visitors. Hence, alternatives were sought for a more considerate treatment of the Neues Museum within the museum complex. It was against that backdrop that the Museum Island Master Plan was devised, and then approved in 1999. In 2000, developmental planning for the Neues Museum was completed.
“Careful reconstruction” was the leitmotif of the reconstruction and restoration works which began in 2003. Based on the plans by architect David Chipperfield, the original fabric of the building was preserved, and the reconstruction was guided by the existing structure and cubature as designed by Stüler. While new elements are recognizable as such, they blend in with the old. Depending on the type and degree of damage, the architects sought an individual solution for each of the rooms.
They were restored, reconstructed, complemented, or rebuilt to varying degrees. In all considerations, priority was given to preserving the historical elements. Parts of the building that were completely or largely destroyed, such as the northwest wing, the southeastern cupola, and the monumental staircase were rebuilt by David Chipperfield in their historical size but with a modern design vocabulary.
By lowering the foundation plate, an urgently needed additional exhibition floor was made available on the ground level. This is where the Archaeological Promenade runs along the longitudinal axis of the building. The Greek Courtyard and the Egyptian Courtyard were restored in a manner that does not require rebuilding when they become part of the Archaeological Promenade in the future. The courtyards will establish the thematic and architectural link to the neighboring buildings.
Today, the Neues Museum houses two collections that were already exhibited when the museum was originally opened: the Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection and the Museum of Prehistory and Early History. The exhibition is complemented by objects from the Collection of Classical Antiquities. Besides the “Ancient Egyptian Department” and the “National Antiquities Department,” the collections formerly represented in the museum included the
Department of Ethnology, the Cast Collection of Antique Sculptures, the Collection of Prints and Drawings, and the Architectural Collection. The original décor of the interior rooms alluded to the presentations. It was created by artists of Late Neo-Classicism and Historicism. When the museum was completely renovated, the concept of careful reconstruction was applied to the décor as well, which had survived to varying degrees.