There are cities, then there are island cities…and then there are museum islands. And then, there is the entrance to the museum island. Impressed already? The James-Simon-Galerie, designed by David Chipperfield Architects Berlin, serves as the new entrance building for Berlin’s Museum Island, completing the ensemble between the Kupfergraben canal and Neues Museum.
As the new gateway to the Museum Island, the James-Simon-Galerie plays a significant role as it is the first to welcome a large number of discerning visitors. The Galerie 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 20th century.
“The (Galerie) celebrates the accessibility of the museums and the treasures they hold,” explains Alexander Schwarz, Partner and Design Director, David Chipperfield Architects Berlin. With four entrances on three levels, it eliminates barriers, enabling the centre of the Island to become penetrable and more so, accessible. It provides direct access to the Pergamon Museum as well as the Neues Museum. In future, entries to the Bode Museum and the Altes Museum via the Archaeological Promenade will be added - all this while simultaneously maintaining the historic main entrances of each museum. This creates a variety of entryways and entrance points, which offer both a modern infrastructure for visits by larger groups, as well as specially planned visits to the individual buildings.
“The (Galerie) resolves logistical and infrastructural issues for the museum complex, and also fulfils an architectural vision for the Museum Island. This highly symbolic location encouraged us to find a reading of the building that transcends its practical functions, becoming defined instead by its general formal characteristics and a looser idea of purpose,” says David Chipperfield himself.
“With colonnades, grand staircases and built topography, the new architecture adopts the well-established themes of the Museum Island,” adds Schwarz. The entrance area of the main level and the end wall of the upper entrance hall were intentionally accentuated in the tradition of historic buildings through the use of translucent material with a mysterious luminosity.
The energy concept of the building is especially tailored to address the stringent requirements for constancy of the room climate in the exhibition areas. The optimisation of, among other things, building thermal performance and use of thermal mass reduces the energy consumption required for this purpose. The use of revolving doors and draught lobbies reduces heat loss through draughts in spite of the expected high frequency of visitors. In addition to energy performance aspects, the James-Simon-Galerie also has a socio-cultural and functional sustainability. The newly-created service infrastructure relieves the burden on the historic museum buildings on the island.
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, with info and ticket counters and direct level access to the main exhibition floor of the Pergamon Museum. The foyer also encloses the cafeteria and opens out onto a grand terrace that, along Kupfergraben canal, runs the full length of the building. A mezzanine floor beneath the main entrance foyer accommodates the museum shop, a large cloakroom, toilet facilities and lockers, while the temporary exhibition spaces and an auditorium are situated in the basement level.
The architectural language of the James-Simon-Galerie adopts existing elements of the Museum Island, primarily from the external architecture, such as built topography, colonnades and outdoor staircases, making reference to Schinkel, Stüler and the other architects involved in the creation of Museum Island. The building is constructed in reconstituted stone, and this blends in with the rich material palette of the Museum Island with its limestone, sandstone and rendered façades.
As a visitor to the Museum Island, the Galerie stands out as a design statement, making you want to, at once, stand apart and stare as well as go on inside and be part of the same statement.
Project DetailsName of project: James-Simon-Galerie
Location: Berlin, Germany
Gross floor area:10,900 sqm
Architect: David Chipperfield Architects
Design lead: David Chipperfield, Martin Reichert, Alexander Schwarz
Project architect: Urs Vogt (Preparation and brief to Technical design, Site design supervision)
Project 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
Quantity Surveyor: Christine Kappei, Stuttgart
Executive architect: Wenzel+Wenzel Freie Architekten, Berlin (Procurement, Construction supervision)
Project mangagement: Christoph-Phillip Krinn
Structural engineer: IGB Ingenieurgruppe Bauen, Berlin
Lighting consultant: matí AG, Adliswil
Lighting design: Conceptlicht GmbH, Traunreut (Outdoor lighting)
Exhibition planning: Duncan McCauley GmbH und Co. KG, Berlin (Permanent exhibition)
Signage: Polyform – Götzelmann Middel GbR, Berlin
Landscape architect: Levin Monsigny Landschaftsarchitekten, Berlin