In 1962 the Berlin Senate commissioned Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886–1969) to build a museum in the city to house 20th-century art. The Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery), constructed between 1965 and 68, was the only building erected by the architect in Germany after the war. The museum is a landmark of modern architecture and is listed as a protected monument by the State of Berlin. From 2015 to 2021, the building underwent extensive refurbishment work.
After almost 50 years of service, in 2015, extensive restoration work began on the Mies van der Rohe building. The contract for planning and carrying out the work was awarded to David Chipperfield Architects in 2012. Founded by David Chipperfield in 1985, with offices in London, Berlin, Milan and Shanghai, the company specialises in museums and other cultural institutions. Chipperfield headed the rebuild of Berlin’s Neues Museum on the Museumsinsel Berlin, which re-opened in 2009, and also designed the James-Simon-Galerie, which opened its doors in 2019.
The aim of the Neue Nationalgalerie refurbishment project was to repair all damaged features and resolve serious safety issues. Works included fire-prevention measures, refurbishment of the entire exterior, removal of the root cause of glass breakage, an overhaul of the concrete shell and the renewal of the building’s technical infrastructure. Another focus of the project was to bring the building up to speed in terms of the requirements of a modern museum with regard to issues such as air conditioning, safety, lighting, storage functions and visitor services.
The refurbishment project was carried out in close liaison with the Landesdenkmalamt (Berlin Office for Monument Protection). The common goal was to preserve the visual appearance of the building and retain as much of the historical structure as possible. As refurbishment work could not take place during opening hours, the museum was forced to close for the duration of the works.