Pergamonmuseum Celebrates Topping-Out Ceremony

06.05.2019
Pergamonmuseum

On 3 May on the Museumsinsel in Berlin, a topping-out ceremony was carried out for the north wing and the central building as part of the comprehensive restoration and expansion of the Pergamonmuseum, which form part of phase A of the project. The southern wing, featuring the Ishtar Gate and the Market Gate of Miletus, remains open. With the construction of a new stairwell and the creation of lit ceilings and glass skylights above the central structure of the museum, a significant portion of the building shell is now complete, and the fit-out is underway.

The Tempietto as a future gateway to the Museumsinsel

Another basic structure that is now complete is part of what will be the Archaeological Promenade beneath the building. A so-called tempietto (or small temple) will function as a new entrance to the Pergamonmuseum, with the shell already stamping its mark on the appearance of the museum. It will link the buildings below ground through the Archaeological Promenade. With the construction of the shell of the Tempietto, the progress that has been made is now also clearly visible from am Kupfergraben.

With Anne Katrin Bohle, State Secretary from the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community; Petra Wesseler, President of the Federal Office for Building and Regional Planning; Hermann Parzinger, President of the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz; and Jan Kleihues, an architect in the Pergamonmuseum working group in attendance, the traditional topping-out wreath was hoisted above the shell of the Tempietto. Together with numerous guests, builders, planners, and others involved with the project celebrated this significant step in this major construction initiative.

Important milestone reached in phase A

The comprehensive restoration and expansion of the Pergamonmuseum is being carried out according to the plans of the architect O.M. Ungers. The project is being implemented in two phases, so that one part of the museum can remain open to visitors at all times. Phase A, which is currently underway, includes the northern wing of the building complex and the central building, which houses the world-famous Pergamon Altar. In the southern section of the building, the museum remains open for business while this work is being carried out. The topping-out ceremony marks an important milestone for phase A. Recent months have seen the completion of the laborious, specialist underground construction work, including the creation of new foundations and the strengthening of the existing foundations for the entire building complex.

“For the federal government, the maintenance and expansion of the World Cultural Heritage site of the Museumsinsel Berlin is of central cultural and architectural importance. Since reunification, the federal government has invested a total of €2 bn in the Museumsinsel and the Humboldt Forum in the reconstructed Berlin Palace”, remarked State Secretary for Building Bohle.

Planning project for phase B

In March of 2019, the Federal Office for Building and Regional Planning was tasked with drawing up the plans for phase B. These activities will be carried out as soon as the work on phase A has been completed.

The plan is to complete phase A by mid-2023. Due to the extreme complexity of the project, the construction work brings with it significant risks. These include not just the strict demands of historic monument preservation and the protection of the artworks that remain in the building, such as the large frieze of the Pergamon Altar, but also the coexistence of the construction work with running of the museum, and the extremely high workload being demanded of the construction firms. Because of this, there is a possibility that the construction period will have to be extended by up to 19 months – stretching into early 2025 at the latest.

Current progress and challenges

The current construction phase is characterised by the progress on the building shells. In this vein, not only was the shell of the Tempietto recently completed, but also a completely new stairwell, which will play a central role in opening up the building. A newly constructed interior wall with large openings in the northern wing has now also been completed.

“The comprehensive restoration of the Pergamonmuseum is a large and highly complex project that provides all involved with constant challenges. It is not just technical demands such as the installation of modern air conditioning systems and making the historical inventory accessible that pose a challenge, the continual protection of the architectural exhibits during the construction period is also demanding”, stresses BBR President Wesseler. “Today’s topping-out ceremony shows that by working together, we are able to master even the most complex of architectural challenges.”

The central elements of the construction project include the refurbishment and strengthening of the load-bearing structure of the roof, with new glazing and the modernisation of the skylights, which let daylight into the exhibition rooms. Above the gallery of Hellenistic art, this work is now completely finished, and above the Pergamon Hall and in the northern wing, work is very advanced.

Notre Dame fire in Paris a warning signal

“The events in Paris have now demonstrated to us the amount of care and attention that is required from the people who take on the task of refurbishing these monumental and at the same time fragile works of architecture, and the responsibility that this implies. For 20 years now, the Museumsinsel Berlin has been included in UNESCO’S list of World Heritage sites. Its comprehensive restoration and expansion is well worth all this effort. With today’s topping-out ceremony, we have reached a milestone on our path to getting the giant, world-famous Pergamonmuseum in shape for the years to come”, added SPK President Hermann Parzinger.

As part of phase B, a fourth wing is to be added to the previously three-winged complex, which for the first time will enable a full circuit through the exhibitions of ancient architecture.

“The architectural task is multifaceted, complex, more than fascinating, and never boring. The work going on inside the building every day is both invisible and inconceivable. Such a challenging project requires a special degree of devotion and interest, as there are no prefabricated solutions and everything has to be thought up as a customised response to each given situation”, explains architect Jan Kleihues.

Refurbishing with state of the art technology

In the central northern section of the building, the technical fit-out is already underway, which will bring the building up to current standards. The significant effort involved in implementing contemporary standards while working with the heritage-listed building materials is revealed clearly by looking at the current state of the work. In the finished building, these changes will be almost imperceptible. The new architectural elements will harmonise with the historical building materials, creating optimal conditions for appreciating the art and cultural objects on exhibit.