As a continuation of Friedrich August Stüler’s forum architecture, the James Simon Galerie serves as the new entrance building for Museum Island in Berlin, completing the ensemble between the Kupfergraben canal and the Neues Museum. Together with the Archaeological Promenade, it forms the backbone of the master plan that was developed in 1999 and adopted as the basis for all further planning on Museum Island. The building is situated on a narrow strip of land where Karl Friedrich Schinkel’s Neuer Packhof administration building stood until 1938.
Ph. Ute Zscharnt for DCA
As the new gateway to the Museum Island, the James Simon Galerie plays a significant role. It is able to welcome large numbers of visitors, housing all the facilities required by a contemporary museum-goer. The James Simon Galerie opens itself to the Lustgarten, the Schlossbrücke (Palace Bridge), and the Kupfergraben canal. It forms a physical connection with the Pergamon Museum at ground level and links the to the Neues Museum, the Altes Museum, and the Bode Museum via the Archaeological Promenade at basement level.
A staggering of the building’s dimensions ensures that the view from the Schlossbrücke into the depths of Museum Island is preserved. Its stone plinth reinforces the bank of the Kupfergraben canal, above which a tall colonnade rises, expressing a classical piano nobile. Large parts of this principal level will be accessible to the public outside of opening hours, further extending the realm of Museum Island.
Slender columns become a leitmotif, reminiscent of the famous sketches by Friedrich Wilhelm IV for his cultural acropolis. They create a contemporary form that continues Stüler’s colonnade that originally ended at Neues Museum and produces a new small colonnaded courtyard between the Neues Museum and the James Simon Galerie.
Three flights of wide steps, set between the elongated plinth and the lower colonnade, invite visitors into the building. Arriving at the upper level, visitors enter a generous foyer that includes information and ticket counters and direct access to the main exhibition floor of the Pergamon Museum. The foyer also encloses the cafeteria and opens out onto a grand terrace that runs the full length of the building. A mezzanine floor beneath the main entrance accommodates the museum shop, a large cloakroom, toilet facilities, and lockers, while the temporary exhibition spaces and an auditorium are situated in the basement.
The architectural language of the James Simon Galerie adopts existing elements of Museum Island, such as built topography, colonnades, and outdoor staircases. It makes reference to Schinkel, Stüler, and the other architects involved in the creation of Museum Island. The material of the building, its reconstituted stone with natural stone aggregate, blends in with the existing rich material palette of limestone, sandstone, and rendered façades, while smooth in-situ concrete dominates the interior spaces.
The entrance building is named after one of the city’s most important patrons, James Simon, who bequeathed his art collections and excavation findings to the Berlin State Museums at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Ph. Simon Menges
DATE: 1999-2007 (project) 2009-2019 (construction) / LOCATION: Berlin, Germany / PROGRAM: Museum / STATUS: Built / DESIGN: David Chipperfield Architects Berlin / PARTNERS: David Chipperfield, Martin Reichert, Alexander Schwarz (Design lead) / PROJECT ARCHITECT: Urs Vogt (Preparation and brief to Technical design, Site design supervision) / TEAM: Mathias Adler, Alexander Bellmann, Thomas Benk, Martin Benner, Alexander Corvinus, Maryla Duleba, Matthias Fiegl, Anke Fritzsch, Dirk Gschwind, Anne Hengst, Paul Hillerkus, Isabel Karig, Linda von Karstedt, Ludwig Kauffmann, Mikhail Kornev, Astrid Kühn, Thomas Kupke, Sebastian von Oppen, Torsten Richter, Elke Saleina, Thomas Schöpf, Eberhard Veit, Anja Wiedemann; Graphics, Visualisation: Dalia Liksaite, Jonas Marx, Antonia Schlegel, Ute Zscharnt / EXECUTIVE ARCHITECT: Wenzel + Wenzel Freie Architekten / AREA: 10,900 m2 / PROJECT MANAGEMENT: Miriam Plünnecke / PROJECT CONTROLLING: Ernst & Young Real Estate GmbH, Berlin / CONSULTANTS: IGB Ingenieurgruppe Bauen (Structure), INNIUS DÖ GmbH, Inros Lackner AG (Services engineer), Müller-BBM GmbH (Building physics), Arge Brandschutz NEG (Fire consultant), matí AG (Lighting consultant), Conceptlicht GmbH, Traunreut (Outdoor lighting), Duncan McCauley GmbH und Co. KG, Berlin (Permanent exhibition), Polyform – Götzelmann Middel GbR (Signage), Levin Monsigny Landschaftsarchitekten (Landscape architect) / CLIENT: Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz represented by the Bundesamt für Bauwesen und Raumordnung / PHOTOS: Ute Zscharnt / Simon Menges