New National Gallery in Berlin: A Symbol of Germany's Rebirth

Another recent opening! After thorough refurbishment under supervision of the renowned British architect David Chipperfield, one of Berlin’s architectural icons reopened to the public: The New National Gallery at Potsdamer Straße, in former West-Berlin’s Kulturforum, alongside National Library and Philharmonie buildings.

The elegant 20th century version of a temple for the arts was designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who just before World War II had emigrated to the US, opening an office in Chicago. Before, in Germany he had been the last director of Bauhaus before the Nazis took over. By then, it had moved from Weimar first to Dessau, then Mies van der Rohe moved it to Berlin, just before it had to be closed down.

National Gallery is the only building Mies van der Rohe built in Germany after the war, opened in 1968. Put on a platform as if a temple of some sacred town of the ancient Maya, its massive flat roof of steel seems to be weightlessly floating above large glass windows. It’s not just an icon building of Bauhaus school, but at the same time a triumphant statement against Nazi backward architecture demanding tilted roofs. The Nazis considered them „german“, a „national feature“ of German architecture.

Berlin suffered heavily from war bombings, plus many more buildings were demolished after the war, when the city became the wet dream of modern city planners. Thus, Berlin lost a lot of beautiful architecture, but in the case of National Gallery’s site, there was very good reason to demolish what had been left there. Here, Hitler’s chief architect Albert Speer had managed to start converting Berlin into the Nazi world capital, so when the war ended, a giant building frame waited to get demolished. Not only in roof design the New National Gallery is exactly the opposite of what Nazi architecture had in mind: Instead of being backward in style, ugly in appearance, and awe-inspiring in effect, it’s elegant, modern and invites to visit. All the more for its collection of modern art.

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