‘As much Mies as possible’: David Chipperfield pays homage to Mies van der Rohe

William Cook talks to leading British architect Sir David Chipperfield, who has just completed the job of renovating the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin

Tuesday 16 November 2021 21:30
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<p>The Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin, designed by architect Mies van der Rohe and first opened in 1968, has undergone extensive renovation under the guidance of Sir David Chipperfield since closing in 2015</p>

The Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin, designed by architect Mies van der Rohe and first opened in 1968, has undergone extensive renovation under the guidance of Sir David Chipperfield since closing in 2015

In the reconstructed centre of Berlin, just down the road from Potsdamer Platz, there’s a building which encapsulates the renaissance of this wonderful, awful city. The Neue Nationalgalerie was built to house West Berlin’s modern art collection, but the greatest artwork in this collection is the building itself. The swansong of Germany’s greatest modern architect, Mies van der Rohe (the man who coined the phrase, “Less is More”), the Neue Nationalgalerie was the apotheosis of his functional, minimal style. It caused a sensation when it opened in 1968. It still looks sensational today.

A steel skeleton with huge glass walls, from a distance it looks more like a futuristic temple than a modern art museum. It’s even more thrilling once you step inside. The sunlit foyer is impressive, but where on earth is all the art? The answer is downstairs, in a gigantic basement, hidden beneath the main building. The final revelation is the sunken garden, which doubles as a compact sculpture park. After wandering through a labyrinth of subterranean galleries you emerge, blinking, back into the light.

Neue Nationalgalerie

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