Story of the Month
The New Neue

“better to repair than restore; better to restore than reconstruct.”

David Chipperfield, Form vs Function. Mies und das Museum. (Speech), 27.11.2014



The quote above, taken from a speech given by the architect David Chipperfield in 2014, voices the conclusions his team came to during the surgical restoration process of Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe’s iconic Neue Nationalgalerie building in Berlin. A landmark ‘International Style’ structure and the last completed project Van Der Rohe made before his death, it was also the only building he completed in Europe following his emigration to New York. 


After winning the restoration contract for the Neue Nationalgalerie in 2012, David Chipperfield Architects began the task at hand in earnest in 2015. They stripped the structure’s interior and removed its shell, extracting a total of 35,000 building components, restored them, before reinstalling them in their original position.

The result is hypnotising – at first indistinguishable from the original building, but on closer inspection, you realise they have delivered a better-updated version of an already mythical architectural icon. The painstaking attention to detail, and dedication to the building, is best summed up by Chipperfield himself:



“Our task was not only to repair its body but to protect its soul.”

David Chipperfield, Form vs Function. Mies und das Museum. (Speech), 27.11.2014



We could read this quote, out of context, as an environmental statement, directed at our engagement with the planet. We have all been tasked with the repair and renewal of our environment, and our ongoing commitment to eco-innovative sustainable materials and material solutions is paramount. Our research is firmly rooted in finding the most sustainable solutions.


The first exhibition in the upstairs glass space, and exterior terrace, is a beautiful survey of the sculptural works of Alexander Calder – “Minimal / Maximal” – a fitting opening choice, as his work Têtes et Queue (1965) was exhibited at the building’s inaugural exhibition in 1968. In this way, another type of restorative act is played out, as the work stands in the same place it occupied 53 years ago.

Instead of finding new forms through experimentation and struggling with insecurities of a new society, Mies reasserted the idea of order, through a humane classism, building a temple, not of stone but now of glass, a new transparency, reconsidering through this transparency not only the enthusiasm of a modern and progressive world but a new openness between inside and outside and between the individual and the structures of society.” 

David Chipperfield, Falling Walls Conference (Speech), 8.11.2014



With Van Der Rohe’s temple open once again for art disciples, ushering in the new Neue, David Chipperfield Architects have schooled us in a restoration masterclass, which we cannot wait to visit! All the information can be found on the Neue Nationalgalerie website to plan your visit.