Wednesday, 23 May 2012

feature : Neues Museum, Berlin


It’s not often that an architect gets an opportunity to make his mark on a bomb site without demolishing what’s left standing and then designing a new building.  But David Chipperfield has not only made his mark, he’s also created stunning spaces that chime perfectly with the Neues Museum’s multi-millennia-old exhibits.


Obviously with such a project the restoration presented just as big a challenge as the architecture, and with the Neues Chipperfield was expertly supported by one of the best, Julian Harrap.  Together the two men have created something quite breath-taking, irrespective of the fact that much of what confronts visitors is still bomb-damaged.


Render and plaster are often still missing.  Where whole sections of wall were lost, just brick replaces them.  But not any old brick, or any old mortar.  The new sections blend perfectly with the old, it often being hard to tell where one ends and the other begins.


As for the architecture, well even Chipperfield was surprised at the quality of surface his German suppliers achieved when mixing his chosen marble chippings with cement.  The surface is sublime, something to be gloried in.


The staircases, an echo of those destroyed, offer an architectural experience like no other.  The polished concrete with it’s marble chippings positively coruscates against its exposed brick background, making ascending to the upper floors an almost ethereal experience.


When you arrive at the uppermost of these floors you encounter a completely different material.  Beautiful dark oak planking runs beneath doors of the most wonderful walnut, all possessing a quality it would be hard to better.


After an absence of almost 70 years Berlin’s pride, its 3,300 year old bust of the beautiful Queen Nefertiti, has been joyously returned to its plinth in the midst of Chipperfield’s brilliantly reborn Neues.  


by Richard Woollen, guest author

all photos by Richard Woollen

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