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A Sustainable Building for Everyone: The Evolution of Plans for the New “berlin modern” Museum


The planning for the Museum der Moderne at the Kulturforum has been considerably modified and further developed since the groundbreaking ceremony in December 2019. In addition to a large-scale photovoltaic system on its roof, the new Nationalgalerie venue has undergone numerous changes to make it considerably more socially and ecologically sustainable as well as more participatory.

The revised design for the building includes an approximately 4,000-square-metre photovoltaic (PV) system on its roof. This means that even at its opening, the structure will already comply with the EGB 55 energy-efficiency standard, which doesn’t go into effect until 2045. Accordingly, the building’s primary energy needs will be well below current legal requirements. Its design is architecturally exemplary. The project presented in the competition already envisioned a structure with a large gable roof positioned around the existing sycamore tree, open for all.

The materials used have undergone numerous economisations and other changes to improve the structure’s CO2 balance. Bricks without cement are now to be used for the façade, replacing the originally planned, precast, concrete brick elements. The brickwork’s archaic materiality and layering also more strongly expresses the building’s archetypal form. Further optimisations have streamlined the structural framework and reduced the amount of steel and concrete required.

Recycled Materials, Museum Climate Requirements and Biodiverse Greenery

Another focus is on the use of recycled materials, which are to be utilised in the concrete, façade bricks and exterior flooring. In particular, the proportion of recycled materials has increased. Adapting the museum’s climate requirements, among other things, optimises the design of the building’s technical services. This measure and the decision to integrate energy-efficient heating-cooling floors have reduced energy requirements by approximately 20%. In combination with the large-scale PV system on the roof, considerable annual CO2 savings are to be achieved in energy consumption, equivalent to the compensatory output of a forest almost one and a half times the size of Berlin’s Tiergarten park.

An almost continuous green strip is being created along Potsdamer Strasse with biodiverse plantings of different heights, similar in appearance to the field hedges in Brandenburg. Grasses and woody plants are carefully chosen to ensure they can also withstand future climatic extremes. Additional trees are planned along the west side, in the direction of Matthäikirchplatz. The green strips and sycamores will be irrigated using various sources, including rainwater from cisterns. Permeable pavements also contribute to an improved micro-climate.

Ticket-Free and Open Areas for Everyone Encourage Social Sustainability and Equitable Participation

Additional planning changes were instituted to make the museum more hospitable, lively and participatory. For instance, there are now more ticket-free exhibition spaces as well as areas that can be used as a variety of purposes. The food and beverage area has been enlarged, and its standard altered. A bookstore will open at the museum’s east entrance adjacent to the free “street gallery” there.

The entrance areas on the east and west sides were redesigned. Simple horizontal incisions in the façade serving as discreet entryways have replaced the large gates. High spaces open up behind them that are still in front of the actual museum entrance and accessible as a street gallery. In the future, a bench along the east and west sides of the new exterior façade will encourage visitors to the Kulturforum to linger. The greenery growing directly in front of these areas will provide shade and foster an improved microclimate. The plantings along the west façade will lend Matthäikirchplatz a new, more pleasant ambience. Overall the building will function as a unifying element, making the Kulturforum a place where people readily enjoy spending time.