In the brilliant sunshine of a glorious autumn day, the cornerstone for the future James-Simon-Galerie was laid on Friday, 18 October 2013. Once completed, the building will serve as the central entrance point to all five museums on the Museumsinsel Berlin and, besides ticket and information desks, will also include a central café, an auditorium, and a special exhibition area of its own.
Representing the building's future users, Hermann Parzinger (President of the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz) and Michael Eissenhauer (Director-General of the Staatliche Museen) both delivered speeches at the official ceremony. Representing the federal government was Michael was Odenwald, Secretary of State at the Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development. Also in attendance was Alexander Schwarz, who said a few words on behalf of David Chipperfield Architects, the architectural practice responsible for the design and construction.
In his speech, Mr. Eissenhauer stressed James Simon's importance as a patron who had a lasting impact on the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, and after whom the new building is named:
'By naming the new entrance building after him, we pay tribute to James Simon, the most significant patron in the history of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. What makes his legacy so impressive is not only the sheer number of artworks and artefacts he donated, but also their quality. The list of stellar works we owe to him ranges from the Nefertiti Bust to the Ishtar Gate and Mantegna's 'Maria with the Sleeping Infant.'
In an act attended by descendants of James Simon, a time capsule was filled with: the day's newspaper, a set of euro coins, the construction plans, as well as a photo of James Simon and a copy of the first deed of endowment for objects presented to the Royal Museums, dated 1904. The capsule was then lowered beneath the foundation stone.