Museums | 05.03.2009
Berlin Receives Keys to Renovated Neues Museum
The German government spent 200 million euros ($251 million) on returning the neoclassical building, which was erected on the city's renowned Museum Island in 1847, to its former glory.
"You can see that it's worth investing here and making the Museum Island a focus of culture in Berlin," the city's Mayor Klaus Wowereit said, adding that the building's completion represented "a great day for culture around the world."
With the Neues Museum's completion, only one institution on Berlin's Museum Island remains unfinished. The Altes Nationalgalerie was renovated in 2001 and work on the Bode Museum was completed five years later. The Pergamon Museum and the Altes Museum are due to be restored by 2026.
"The opening marks an important day for the Museum Island but also for Berlin and the whole of Germany," Hermann Parzinger, head of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation which manages regional museums, told reporters.
Home to Egyptian collection
The Neues Museum, which will open to the public in October, will house the archaeological collections of the capital's Egyptian Museum including the 3,400-year-old Egyptian bust of Nefertiti, which will have its own hall.
"After 11 years, I'm a little reluctant to hand over the keys today," joked said British star architect David Chipperfield, who won a competition to restore the building in 1997.
The island in the Spree River is located in what used to be communist East Germany and was not the subject of major renovation until the Berlin Wall fell 20 years ago. The renovation of the island's institutions has cost about 1 billion euros and the government is slated to spend another 500 million on related projects by 2025.
Museum's 'strange chronology'
UNESCO named the Museum Island a World Cultural Heritage site in 1999 and German officials have said that when completed the site will rival Paris' Louvre.
The Neues Museum, which got its name because it was built shortly after the city's Old Museum, is roughly rectangular, with high ceilings creating a light and airy atmosphere. One of the building's focal points is a grand staircase, which leads to the top floors and is a lasting monument to its first architect, Friedrich August Stueler.
"The architecture is special because it is subtle enough not to cast a shadow over the historical artifacts exhibited," Joerg Haspel, from Berlin's department for the preservation of historical monuments, explained.
Chipperfield said the project had a "strange chronology" because the project had required him to work with material that had largely remained untouched for 60 years.
The architect, who has offices in London, Berlin and Milan, also said that he had tried to "capture the damage of war and the 60 years following."
According to local media reports, Berlin city authorities hope the completed Museum Island project will attract up to four million visitors a year.