Architect David Chipperfield is handing the keys back to the Berlin State Museums today after a six-year renovation of one of Germany’s most recognizable museum landmarks, Mies van der Rohe’s Neue Nationalgalerie.
The €140 million ($168 million) renovation of the the architect’s legacy building was undertaken with the motto “as much Mies as possible.” The museum, which opened in 1968, displays Berlin’s enviable collection of Modern and contemporary art from its permanent collection, and hosts large-scale temporary exhibitions, which included solo presentations by Gerhard Richter in 2012 and Otto Piene in 2014.
Despite the substantial costs and overhaul—which included removing every tile from the exterior grounds, the marbles slabs on the main floors pillars, replacing its large glass windows, and refurbishing its roof—the steel-and-glass structure appears aesthetically identical to its original vision. To Chipperfield, that means a job well done.
“Dismantling a building of such unimpeachable authority was a strange experience, but one of privilege,” said David Chipperfield in a statement. “Our work was of a surgical nature… Such an undertaking in a building where nothing can be hidden is intimidating, but we hope to have released the patient seemingly untouched—only in much better condition.”
The security, ventilation, and accessibility amenities of the steel-and-glass building were all updated, as were its below-ground exhibition spaces.
Van der Rohe lived in Berlin for many years not far from the museum site before he emigrated to the U.S. In 1930, he had served as the last director of the Bauhaus before it closed at the behest of the Nazis, who disapproved of the design school, van der Rohe, and his Modernist contemporaries. The archiect then left for the U.S. in 1937.
The Neue Nationalgalerie marked van Rohe’s architectural return to Berlin and was the last building he had a direct hand in working on. He died one year after its completion, in 1968.
The museum will again host its permanent collection, which will be rehung as a new exhibition titled “The Art of Society.” A temporary exhibition of work by Alexander Calder, titled “Minimal / Maximal” will be on view from August 22 to February 13, as will a film installation by Berlin-based artist Rosa Barba.
Construction is still underway next door for Herzog and de Meuron’s €450 million museum for 20th-century art.
“The New National Gallery will once again become a magnet for the public,” said Monika Grütters, Germany’s culture commissioner, in a statement. “This important cultural building in the heart of our city has been successfully reopened despite the restrictions imposed by the pandemic.”