Chipperfield Architects completes the meticulous renovation of the Neue Nationalgalerie de Mies in Berlin
As expected, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s highly anticipated top-to-bottom renovation Neue Nationalgalerie, a square two-level monument erected in granite, glass, concrete and steel at the heart of Berlin’s Kulturforum cultural complex, was completed this month. Construction on the thorough and very thoughtful review of the museum, run by the Berlin office of David Chipperfield Architects, began in 2016 and design work began four years earlier.
As with many projects recently, the roughly $ 124 million renovation, which is the first major modernization project to be undertaken at the museum, experienced pandemic-related delays during the ride home, but remains on track to reopen provisionally to the public at the end of August with an exhibition of works by Alexander Calder.
Completed in 1968, the Neue Nationalgalerie is the modern art-focused arm of the National Gallery in Berlin and one of Mies’ most famous completed works in his native Germany. It is also the only work completed in Germany designed by Mies after his emigration to the United States in 1937. Born in the city of Aachen in present-day North Rhine-Westphalia, Mies, a dominant figure in the world of Modernist architecture, died in his adopted Chicago home just a year after the museum’s completion. He was 83 years old.
In a statement, Chipperfield noted the “surgical” nature of the novel (and non-intrusive) inspiration in an “icon of 20th century architecture”:
“Dismantling a building of such unquestionable authority was a strange experience, but a privilege. The Neue Nationalgalerie is a touchstone for me and for many other architects. Seeing behind her exterior revealed both her genius and her flaws, but overall it only deepened my admiration for Mies’ vision. Our work was therefore surgical in nature, addressing technical issues to protect this vision. It is certain that accomplishing such a task in a building that leaves no place to hide is intimidating, but we hope we have made this beloved patient seemingly intact except for a smoother operation.
The conservation-oriented work overseen by the Chipperfield Berlin office and larger project team was, as mentioned, extensive and touched on many aspects of the nearly 150,000 square foot building, from restoration to steel framing from the cantilever roof to installation. from more than 17,000 square feet of new glass enveloping the exhibition / entrance hall, to the thorough cleaning of the granite facade slabs, to a total upgrade to lighting and air conditioning aimed at reducing the footprint environmental impact of the aging building. Accessibility has also been improved and public facilities including the cafe, cloakroom, museum shop and washrooms have all been modernized. Outside, the outdoor public spaces have also been respectfully renovated, including the museum’s famous sculpture garden, also a Miesian creation.
A total of 35,000 original building elements, including the stone cladding and all interior fittings, were dismantled and then restored (and modified in some cases) before being reinstalled in their “precise original positions” , as the company noted.
As Martin Reichert, Partner and Managing Director of David Chipperfield Architects Berlin, put it perfectly, visitors returning to the museum later this summer expecting something obviously ‘new’ and shocking might be a bit disappointed as the project focuses on the meticulous restoration of the building, no major expansion or repositioning work.
“There was no promise of new splendor, no promise of new qualities, no reinterpretation or aesthetic enhancement, just the renovation of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s latest work in accordance with accepted conservation practices,” Reichert said.
He added: “This project was exceptional in many ways: the severity with which even seemingly marginal conservation issues were discussed, the high degree of appreciation of the building fabric, the differentiated assessment of various interests and concerns as well. that the message self-explanatory. that after the completion of the construction works, there is nothing more to see than a major work of late modernism, which has been restored with great care.
An essay written by Reichert entitled “Concept of preservation and renewal of monuments”, excerpt from the forthcoming book Neue Nationalgalerie Berlin: renovation of an architectural icon, further details the Herculean effort undertaken by Chipperfield Architects and his collaborators to restore the Neue Nationalgalerie to its original state while improving it for the future.
The firm explains that “inevitable interventions on the original tissue” had to be carried out. If these “essential additions remain subordinate to the existing design of the building, they are nevertheless discreetly readable as contemporary elements”.
“The renovation project does not represent a new interpretation, but rather a respectful repair of this iconic building of international style,” added the firm.
BAL Bauplanungs und Steuerungs GmbH (executive architect), Pro Denkmal GmbH (restoration consultant), GSE Ingenieurgesellschaft mbH Saar, Enseleit und Partner (structural engineer), DS-Plan (facade consultant), TOPOS Stadtplanung Landschaftsplanung joined the team from Chipperfield Architects. Stadtforschung (landscape architect) and others.
More information on the meticulous rehabilitation project and the upcoming opening of the museum can be found on the Neue Nationalgalerie website.