Photography: Rory Gardiner
Location: Kulturforum, Berlin
Architect: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
The Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) is part of the cultural center Kulturforum, situated between the Landwehr Canal, Potsdamer Platz and Tiergarten Park in Tiergarten, central Berlin. The site was once a residential area built in the 19th century but parts of it were torn down by the Nazis to give place to Hitler and Speers vision of a new Berlin, Welthauptstadt Germania (World Capital Germania).
After World War II and the division of Berlin most of the cultural buildings had ended up on the East German side of the wall. As a result of this plans of making a new cultural center for West Berlin started in the 50s. Kulturforum was to become a modernist answer to Museum Island and the New National Gallery to become its centerpiece.
Mies van der Rohe was invited to design the museum in 1961. However the idea behind the building's design originated from an earlier project of Mies. Five years before, Mies had been commissioned to design a new office for Cuban liquor brand Bacardi, in their hometown of Santiago de Cuba. The design he proposed, a large roof plate supported by two columns on each side, although different in scale, and in concrete instead of steel, was almost identical to design he would later propose for the New National Gallery.
Site Plan - 1. Kunstbibliothek 2. St. Matthäus-Kirche 3. Landwehr Canal 4. Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin 5. Stage Theater am Potsdamer Platz
Plan 1 - 1. Entrance 2. Coat Check 3. Exhibition Hall 4. Installation sturucture 5. Sculpture Garden (lower level)
Plan 0 - 1. Exhibition Space 2. Foyer 3. Shop 4. Café 5. Library 6. Administration 7. Sculpture Garden
"It was agreed that nobody would speak more than five minutes. What humbug that was! I want to thank the men who worked the steel, and the ones who did the concrete. And when the great roof raised itself up without a sound, I was amazed!!" 1Mies who lived and worked in Chicago was not able to attend the official inauguration of the building when finished one and a half years later and he passed away in august 1969 less than a year after the building was completed.1 Neue Nationalgalerie was Mies last major project and the only commission he got from the government of West Germany. Mies started his architectural practice in Berlin in 1912 and with the Neue Nationalgalerie he now got the chance to close the circle.
The Neue Nationalgalerie is now closed for at least four years of renovation led by David Chipperfield Architects who are now working to restore the building after almost 50 years of use. You can listen to David Chipperfield’s mission statement here.