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The Neues Museum in Berlin

A modern testimony on the wounds of war

By: Saja Hamad
Conservation Theory, Philosophy and Practice

 History
 The Neues museum was built between 1843 and 1855 by Fredrich August Stuller, as
the second museum on Museum Island. At that times, the King Friedrich Wilhelm IV
of Prussia envisioned the island to be 'a sanctuary of arts and sciences'.

 During the World War II, the extensive bombing left the museum severely damage
hence it was completely closed until the East German Government commenced
some 'restorations' that where soon halted due to the reunification of Germany.
Competitions where held for the design of the museum, with the end goal of
refashioning the Neues Museum as well as the Museum Island as a whole,
into a modern institution, a symbol of rebirth and reconciliation coming out
of a divided time

Frank Gehry’s Proposal

David Chipperfield’s proposal
Top: First round submissions from Giorgio Grassi. rendering.
Middle: First round submissions from David Chipperfield, drawing.
Bottom: First round submissions from Frank O. Gehry, photograph of model
 The Neues Museum along with several important museums, is located in the museum island forming a
public institutional triad around a large courtyard
Significance of the project

 The Neues Museum as an important document of German's

history (A philological view)
 The Neus Museum in Berlin is an important historical monument of the
Prussian Culture as long as all the other museums in the island, however
what distinguishes it is that there was little restoration done to it in the
20th century, hence it had many of the original material left, and also the
 Architectural historic significance; Evolution of
museums, Integration of Technology and an
Expression of local style
 Stüler, the first architect of the Neues Museum, took the idea of museums a step
further, as a response to the Altes Museum’s curatorial approach. He departed from
the more crowded display techniques and placed art in contextually embellished
galleries thus one can observe the Neues Museums interior display as an artifact
itself .
 Moreover , since the classical and ornate interiors of the Gylopethyk and of the
Alte Pinakothek were destroyed in World War II, the partly destroyed interior of
the Neues Museum ranks among the last remaining examples of interior museum
layout of this period in Germany.

 Finally, the Neues Museum is an important monument in the history of

construction and technology. With its various iron constructions, it is the first
monumental building of Prussia to consistently apply new techniques made possible
by Industrialisation . As a further innovation, a steam engine was used for the first
time in construction in Berlin.
The Architect's Philosophy

 In the view of David Chipperfield, a building has a

responsibility to public, it must aim to respond to society
therefore in a way it is a political act. Thus in many cases,
saving a building could mean adding to society, and not
necessarily reduced to the act of conservation; "What
you protect is what you add." He says. This hints at the
idea that the architect has a forward thinking view of the
past, rather than a 'romantic' one as criticized by many for
his decisions to not reestablish a building to its Old
Prussian glory. He has a modern approach in his work
however not in an attitude that leaves behind the past.
The Architect's Philosophy
 Another important emphasis he makes is his "objective/
scientific" approach , through dealing with the restoration
on a case-by-case basis what could remain, and then
stabilizing it. he understood the construction of memory
as the subject matter of history as a science He sees the
architect as the least important in the building, thus
detaches from his emotions, but rather deals with the
emotion of the citizen through a healthy dialogue that
eventually manifests itself in architecture.
The Architect's Philosophy
 David Chipperfield’s approach in the Neues museum
resonates with the Nara Document on Authenticity,
1994,: In a world that is increasingly subject to the forces
of globalization and homogenization, and in a world in
which the search for cultural identity is sometimes
pursued through aggressive nationalism and the
suppression of the cultures of minorities, the essential
contribution made by the consideration of authenticity in
conservation practice is to clarify and illuminate the
collective memory of humanity.
The Architect's Philosophy
 His efforts are seen in framing history, through
streamlined architectures that simultaneously displays
ancient civilizations and the more recent history of the
German war. In a way continuing the initial quest of Stuler
of making a museum an educating artifact but also adds to
it the museums responsibility and ability as a building to
create a dialogue and thus recreate the German identity
Discussion on the levels of intervention

 The south east and northwest parts of the building were completely eradicated, as seen above
the architect's sketch indicates the reestablishment of original form and figure, Stuler's old
plans where almost completely replicated
The reestablishment however is a magnificent example of modern architecture that
doesn't aim to falsify, but to respect the past form; an essential aspect of authenticity.
The southeast corner of the main elevation now stands in contrast to its northeast
twin as a simplified and streamlined version of its former self . On the rest of the
façade, darkly soiled bricks fade in and out of cleaner and newer ones, creating a sense
of continuity, and sets past and future in dialogue by intervening in the very materiality
of the building.
 The rectangular, infinity-loop-shaped floor plan has been preserved from , the museum is
organized in a strong framework of two wings, north and south, which are centralized around
two courtyards, the Greek and Egyptian courtyards respectively that cut through the entire
three-story building.
Greek Court Egyptian Court
 The decision to Stüler’s original framework, the floor plan, is more
of an intangible preservation of ideas than the actual architecture
Stüler’s ,original vision was for the viewer to move through the
museum in an infinity. The only room additions made where of a
modern functions like the museum shop and café. Chipperfield by
preserving the old plan and rooms maintains the 19th century
narrative of German history in the Neues Museum that was
originally meant to play into nationalist sentiments. However
Chipperfield created a new historical framework through his
interpretive choices thus it doesnt seem to be reiterating the 19th
century Prussian program.

Christina Cogdell, author of
Eugenic Design: Streamlining
America in the 1930’s
rethinks the implications of
Chipperfield’s use of a
streamlined style in the
Neues Museum, suggesting
that as Chipperfield
streamlined the architecture
of the building, he also
effectively streamlines the
history of it, offering the
visitor a more
straightforward or resolved
version of it.
 Some rooms are almost all modern, due to complete
 The columns where left in ruin to testify the war
 Brick work used to restore vaults and arches
 Concrete used to restore full columns
 The Neues Museum’s exterior becomes interesting as one notices
the holes and bullet marks that litter the exterior of the building,
haphazardly clustered and scattered across the façade of the

 The weathered exterior that endows the building with a sense of age ,the drama of the ruin, which has spoken of in John
Ruskin's writing is strongly felt.
The Egyptian Courtyard in Chipperfield’s restored Neues Museum featuring frescos
of archeological sites from Stüler’s Neues Museum
 A demonstration of the analogous restoration of artefact and architecture
 Stüler’s Neues Museum’s Main Staircase
 Chipperfield's Neues Museum’s Main Staircase
Discourses by the different stakeholders
of the project
 The project as any other had various stakeholders, the public being the
most important one in this case.
 -The General public: There was a heated dichotomous discourse within the
public sphere, one side accused David Chipperfield criticized for
memorializing damage, while the other side saw the work as an essential
transition for moving past the war wounds. Despite the heated
argumentation, David choose to view the Neues Museum as a dynamic
monument and a teacher, an example of how the built environment could
assist is reinventing our collective identity, the general review of the public
where mostly positive emphasizing the idea that an architect must be
visionary, yet sensitive and careful while mediating change in society.
Discourses by the different stakeholders
of the project

The restoration of Dredsen, returning to the glory of the

Old, a stylistic approach
Discourses by the different stakeholders
of the project

 The Architects: David Chipperfield and Julian Harrap Architects (expert in

monument preservation).
David saw the opportunity in the 'burden' displayed by the museum, as a
museum that would testify the war and struggle of the German people, and
not to deny them through a more stylistic approach of preservation that
was widespread in restoration projects throughout Germany. It is argued
that many Germans see this as a 'celebration of wounds' which they cannot
accept, they prefer a more stylistic approach, restoring Berlin to its glory
and would prefer to see a perfect copy of the original
Discourses by the different stakeholders
of the project
 Client: Foundation of Prussian Heritage
 Activists/ Bodies: Society of Ancient Berlin
Many activists accused David for destroying the museum for the second
time, they called his work cultural demolition.In 2008, the society of ancient
Berlin wrote to the UNESCO, explaining the threat this project is imposing
on the possible loss of the World Heritiage List title. In 2007, a petition was
raised called ' Save the Museum' however only 6000 out of 20000 required
signatures were collected.
Discourses by the different stakeholders
of the project
 The German Government: represented by Berlin Heritage Authority, State
Museums of Berlin. The bureaucracy as explained by the architect was a
long process in germany, albeit a fruitful one, extremely necessary as an act
of preservation of identity, especially that a British was responsible for the
project. David mentions that "A german can not do it" as an expression of
the emotional magnitude that it would represent.