Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery)
Potsdamer Strasse 50
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe 1968
Starting residentially with his Farnsworth House in 1951, and institutionally with his Crown Hall for the Illinois Institute of Technology in 1956, Mies pioneered the creation of totally flexible spaces, with roofs supported only by columns outside the floor plan of the building, giving a clear span from one glass curtain wall to another. The New National Gallery in Berlin is his last and most developed form of this space – although, in keeping with the versatility of this approach to design, it is itself a close copy of an un-built 1958 design for a quite different context program: an office building in Cuba for Bacardi Rum.
Along with Mies’ much earlier German Pavilion in Barcelona, the Neue Nationalgalerie is considered one of the foremost examples of modernist structural abstraction.
Mies was uncompromising in his pursuit of this perfection. When the infinitely flexible space between the glass curtain walls of the New National Gallery turned out to be quite unfriendly for exhibiting art, Mies’ unapologetic response (albeit at the age of 81) was that
“It is such a huge hall that of course it means great difficulties for the exhibiting of art. I am fully aware of that. But it has such potential that I simply cannot take those difficulties into account.”
Mies also refused to go along with the New National gallery’s request to extend the underground part of the building to provide much-needed extra space, because the extension – though invisible because beneath the ground – would have compromised the perfect cubic proportions of the building.
The building is a dramatic contrast to the other buildings of the Kulturforum from a similar period, all by the much more expressionist Hans Scharoun: his Philharmonie, Kammermusiksaal, and Staatsbibliothek.
Simon Glynn 2009
How to visit
The Neue Nationalgalerie is a few minutes' walk from Potsdamer Platz, southwest along on Potsdamer Strasse.
To reach Potsdamer Platz by public transport, take:
S-Bahn S1, S2, S25
Books and other web sites
Do check before visiting, because the whole museum can be closed when they are re-fitting an exhibition.
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