David Chipperfield completes the James Simon Galerie on Berlin's Museum Island

The British architect has designed a profoundly “classical” building, capable of generating new urban relations amongst the monuments surrounding it.

David Chipperfield Architects Berlin, James Simon Galerie, Berlin, Germany, 2018

Almost a whole decade has passed since the opening of the construction site for the James Simon Galerie. Starting from 2019, the now completed building will welcome the flows of visitors – almost a million people per year – entering the Museum Island in Berlin.

Still, David Chipperfield’s design, as usual so uncaring of the wow factor, certainly did not age through this timespan; rather, it straight away appears considerably settled in, amongst the neighboring monumental buildings, all of some kind of “neoclassical” lineage.

This context for Chipperfield ­– who also designed the Neues Museum’s restoration-reconstruction – carries on his investigation on “classical” architecture, an uninterrupted path of research crossing his entire career.

The high stone plinth reinforcing the Kupfergraben canal’s bank, the tall colonnade rising up above it and the monumental stairway overlooking the Bodestrasse are just the most overt quotes to the Museum Island’s shape, as it was built and imagined by the leading figures of German neoclassicism – such as Karl Friedrich Schinkel and Friedrich August Stüler.

On the one side it is true that the James Simon Galerie’s program centralises the main facilities, which are necessary to ensure a quality contemporary experience to a museum’s visitor – a cafeteria, a shop, a cloakroom and many others. Nonetheless, Chipperfield stresses that “its role is not so much defined by its function, but rather by its responsibility as a public building at the heart of the city”.

Its design will prove successful if it will be actually able to reorganise the empty space that it occupies and to generate new connections and urban occasions – for instance, through the brand new public terrace lining the canal.

David Chipperfield Architects Berlin, James Simon Galerie, Berlin, Germany, 2018
David Chipperfield Architects Berlin, James Simon Galerie, Berlin, Germany, 2018
James Simon Galerie
multifunctional building
Berlin, Germany
David Chipperfield Architects Berlin
Partners David Chipperfield Architects Berlin:
David Chipperfield, Martin Reichert, Alexander Schwarz
Project architect:
Urs Vogt
Structural engineer:
IGB Ingenieurgruppe Bauen, Berlin
Landscape architect:
Levin Monsigny Landschaftsarchitekten, Berlin
10,900 sqm

Latest on Architecture

Latest on Domus

Read more
China Germany India Mexico, Central America and Caribbean Sri Lanka Korea icon-camera close icon-comments icon-down-sm icon-download icon-facebook icon-heart icon-heart icon-next-sm icon-next icon-pinterest icon-play icon-plus icon-prev-sm icon-prev Search icon-twitter icon-views icon-instagram