Berlin Win

Herzog & de Meuron win commission to design Berlin’s Museum of the 20th Century

Architecture International
Herzog & de Meuron have a hankering for brick of late with their designs for the Switch House and Chelsea FC's stadium in London also making wide use of the material. (Courtesy Herzog & de Meuron / vVgt Landschaftsarchitekten AG)

Swiss firm Herzog and de Meuron, working with German landscape architects Vogt, has seen off competition from 41 other practices to design the Museum of the 20th Century in Berlin. New York studios SO-IL, Snøhetta, and REX were in the running for the $218.8 million project, along with British firms Zaha Hadid Architects and David Chipperfield Architects. Danish firm Lundgaard & Tranberg Arkitekter was announced as runner-up, while German practice Bruno Fioretti Marquez Architekten was awarded third prize.

Herzog de Meuron Berlin Museum of the 20th Century

(Courtesy Herzog & de Meuron / vVgt Landschaftsarchitekten AG)

Back in November 2014, Germany’s parliament put aside 200 million euros for the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation and a new, much-needed building to show 20th-century art at the Cultural Forum (a collection of cultural institutions located at the edge of West Berlin). In September 2015, a competition was launched for a design strategy that would include the site layout, architecture, and landscaping of the museum.

The Swiss firm’s winning proposal depicts the museum extensively clad in brick, with a pitched roof spanning its entire length. Inside, the space will be divided into four parts with a sycamore tree being placed in the northeast quarter amid a restaurant area. With this space set among the galleries and art storage, the museum will become a place for art, meeting, and archival storage. Circulatory devices inside aim for crossovers between groups of visitors that wouldn’t usually meet. Herzog and de Meuron explained: “The museum is the place where different paths cross, where different mentalities and worlds allow an encounter. It has several entrances, as it is oriented in all directions. It draws attention to the local collection of art.”

Herzog de Meuron Berlin Museum of the 20th Century

New York studio SO-IL missed out on the commission. (Courtesy SO-IL)

Internationally significant art collections” will be on display, including the National Gallery’s Marx and Pietzsch collections, parts of the Marzona collection, and works from the Kupferstichkabinett (Museum of Prints and Drawings). The museum will also connect to the Mies van der Rohe-designed Neue Nationalgalerie through an underground tunnel.

Speaking in a press release, Culture Minister Monika Grütters spoke of the jury process: “The great interest [in] the project shows that it is an attractive challenge for any renowned agency to build in this neighborhood.”

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