By naming its new central entrance building after James Simon (1851–1932), the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin pays tribute to the most important patron in its history. Thanks to his generous support of the arts, science, and the commonweal, the Jewish textile-business owner from Berlin stands as a shining example of modern civic duty for present and future generations.
The James-Simon-Galerie is the visitor centre for the Museum Island. The building will serve all visitors (individuals, tourist groups, and school groups) and will contain ticket desks selling tickets for all museums, information desks, a café, and the central museum gift shop. In addition to a large area used for ticket sales, information and checkrooms, the James-Simon-Galerie will also accommodate a café, a museum shop, a lecture auditorium, and special exhibitions spaces.The terrace on Kupfergraben will be accessible both during and outside museum hours. As part of the Master Plan for Museum Island – adopted in 1999 to preserve the UNESCO World Heritage, but also to transform it into a contemporary museum complex at the same time – the James-Simon-Galerie is assuming a central role in its function as a meeting point.
After its opening the new building will provide direct access to the Pergamonmuseum and Neues Museum, and to the Archäologische Promenade, which will - in a more distant future - form a walkway connecting four museums, from the Altes Museum in the south to the Bode Museum in the north.
The 1993 tenders for competition with regard to the renovation of the Neues Museum already included the item “construction of connecting and extension buildings.” When David Chipperfield Architects made plans for rebuilding the Neues Museum in the years that followed, it turned out that a separate building was needed to accommodate central service and infrastructure facilities. Hence, the Museum Island Master Plan, which was agreed upon in 1999, included the construction of a new entrance building. David Chipperfield Architects submitted a first concept for such a building as early as 2001. Chipperfield’s many years of engagement with the Museum Island as a World Heritage Site and his respect for the historical setting become apparent from the revised plan of 2007.
The distinguishing architectural element of the James-Simon-Galerie is the historical theme of colonnades translated into modern form. Inspired by Stüler’s column walkway, a new, smaller column-lined courtyard is being created between the James-Simon-Galerie and the Neues Museum: the so-called New Courtyard. Columns are also the distinguishing feature on the side of the building that faces the Kupfergraben. The tall base of the James-Simon-Galerie will continue the architecture of the adjoining Pergamonmuseum. The building itself is a transparent structure defined by delicate columns and glass, offering a variety of views from both inside and outside.