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Berlin’s Neue Nationalgalerie and its sculpture garden. © Simon Menges.
Berlin’s Neue Nationalgalerie and its sculpture garden. © Simon Menges.

Berlin’s Neue Nationalgalerie Unveils $168 Million Renovation

The six-year renovation of Berlin’s Neue Nationalgalerie was declared complete today, and the institution has said it will welcome visitors in August. Restoration of the iconic 1968 structure, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, was overseen by David Chipperfield Architects, acting on the mandate “as much Mies as possible.”

“Dismantling a building of such unimpeachable authority was a strange experience,” said Chipperfield in a statement, “but one of privilege.” The architect described the work performed as being of a surgical nature, noting that “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.”

In the course of the $168 million renovation, all tiles were temporarily removed from the exterior grounds, as were the marble slabs on the main-floor pillars; in all, some 35,000 original components were removed to accommodate the repair of the edifice’s reinforced concrete shell. The building’s massive windows were replaced and its roof refurbished, all with the result that the structure appears as it did when originally completed. The museum is additionally barrier-free for the first time, thanks to the addition of a ramp on the southeast side of the building leading to the terrace and main entrance.

The Neue Nationalgalerie, which is home to Berlin’s collection of modern and contemporary art, was one of the German-born Mies’s last large projects before his death in 1969 and the only European building he designed following his 1937 emigration to the United States. Still to be completed is a neighboring museum by Swiss design team Herzog & de Meuron. Begun in 2018, the $545 million structure will be connected to the Mies building by a tunnel, and will house the city’s collection of twentieth-century art.

“The Neue Nationalgalerie will once again become a magnet for the public,” said German culture commissioner Monika Grütters, speaking live at the museum as Chipperfield ceremonially handed back the keys to the building. “This important cultural building in the heart of our city has been successfully reopened despite the restrictions imposed by the pandemic.”