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Berlin’s Museum Island receives its first new building in almost 100 years

David Chipperfield Architects designed the building.

July 22, 2019 |

Image: Ute Zscharnt for David Chipperfield Architects

The  James-Simon-Galerie, the first new building on Berlin’s Museum Island in nearly 100 years, opened to the public on July 13, 2019 and acts as the new entrance building to the island. The building sits at a key location in front of or behind the Neues Museum and Pergamon Museum, complementing the interplay of spatial alignments on the island and reorientating it towards the city. 

The project plays an essential role in the Museum Island master plan and links four of the five museums via the Archaeological promenade below ground (the project includes 3 above ground levels, one mezzanine, and two below ground levels). The master plan sets a framework for developing a modern museum complex while preserving the unique historical ensemble, and the James-Simon-Galerie does just that by providing a contemporary aesthetic that blends in with the surrounding museums.


Upper foyer, main internal staircaseUpper foyer, main internal staircasePhoto: © Ute Zscharnt for David Chipperfield Architects.


The primary façade material is cast stone. An aggregate made of white marble gravel from Saxony lends the entrance building its tonality, integrating it into the diversity of materials on Museum Island. Behind the building's columns, the envelop is glazed, and stabilized by eight-meter-high vertical façade supports, themselves made from glass.


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Inside, the structure is characterized by textured surfaces, in particular smooth in-situ concrete walls in fair-face concrete and floors made of bright Crailsheim shell limestone. The mezzanine floor and the auditorium have smoked oak parquet flooring. Bronze was used for window profiles, doors and handrails throughout the building. A copper braid was used on selected ceilings, including in the café.


Plinth and tall colonnadePlinth and tall colonnade (92 columns)Photo: Photo: © Simon Menges.


The 10,900-sm building was designed to welcome large numbers of visitors and to house all the facilities required by contemporary museum-goers. The James-Simon-Galerie also includes divisible temporary exhibition space and a 350-seat auditorium. Outside of museum hours, a grand staircase, a terrace with café, and a new courtyard will be accessible to the public.

Revolving doors and draft lobbies help minimize heat loss despite the expected high frequency of visitors. The use of radiant building components implemented in the plant technology of the building uses thermally activated surfaces to cover the base load in heating and cooling, reducing the air volume flows. A thermally active and acoustically absorbent ceiling with a copper mesh cladding, which was used in selected areas, also has a positive effect.

Museum Island has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1999 and is visited by about three million people every year.


Auditorium​Auditorium. Photo: © Ute Zscharnt for David Chipperfield Architects.


Temporary Exhibition Space​Temporary exhibition space. Photo: © Ute Zscharnt for David Chipperfield Architects.


View from Schlossbrücke. Photo: © Ute Zscharnt for David Chipperfield Architects.

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