Back to profile
Eller + Eller Architekten

German Historical Museum, Berlin

Building type
museums, gallerys, art halls, documentation centers
building project
new building
material façade
architect award
Deutscher Architekturpreis
Anerkennung; Deutscher Natursteinpreis; Marble Architectural Awards (Italien)

The extension of the German Historical Museum in Berlin provides several galleries for alternating exhibitions as well as workshop areas, situated adjacent to the existing museum administration. A spacious, four-storey glass hall links both parts with various bridges, platforms and a sculptural spiral stair. The inner courtyard of the baroque armory, the "Zeughaus" had been covered with a shallow glass cupola to allow year-round use.

The challenge was the integration on a small and difficult downtown site, largely hidden from view but occupying a key location on an important pedestrian route to Museum Island: The goal was to animate this historic precinct with new activity. The new building is an addition to the 18th-century armory on the opposite side of an historic alley, which had to be kept open. In consequence, both buildings are only linked underground and the alley, called "Hinter dem Zeughaus", was converted into a pedestrian corridor.
Transparency, movement, and light are the means by which the new building invites public participation. The entire front facade is wrapped in glass so that interior activities are put on display. The stair tower plays an important role in this urban theater since it is the only part of the extension visible from a distance. In thus, beckoning people closer and encouraging them to enter. Once inside, the glass facades present dramatic views of the historic context: Schinkel's Neue Wache especially is brought into focus, as well as the long obscured fourth facade of the Zeughaus.

The project is housed within stone walls that complement the neighboring buildings. Galleries are located on the main level underground where the new building is linked to the existing museum, at grade level where a second entrance opens to the street, and also on levels three and four. Visitors are enticed to explore the museum by constantly changing perspectives as they rise to each floor by different means of vertical circulation: first an escalator, then a monumental stair, and finally the glazed spiral stair, offering indoor and outdoor views in all directions as it rotates up to the top floor.