Who will build Berlin’s new museum of the 20th century?

Ten proposals have made it to the next round of architecture competition

by Catherine Hickley  |  17 February 2016
Who will build Berlin’s new museum of the 20th century?
Models for the new Berlin museum were presented last week © SPK/ Koehler
Berlin has kicked off an architectural competition for a new museum of 20th century art at the Kulturforum near Potsdamer Platz in the city centre, with an independent jury whittling down an impressive 460 entrants to ten proposals. The winning design will be sel ected at the end of the year.

The site for the new museum is between Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s metal-and-glass Neue Nationalgalerie and Hans Scharoun’s spiky gold Philharmonie, two architectural landmarks of the 1960s. The competition entries “made clear the complexity and enormous difficulty” of the site, says Arno Lederer, the president of the jury. Many of the shortlisted proposals chose unobtrusive designs to avoid competing with the future museum’s famous neighbours.

The Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation announced plans for the new museum in 2013 because of a shortage of exhibition space for the city’s vast collection of 20th-century art, including works by the Brücke group of Expressionists as well as by Edvard Munch, Max Beckmann, Otto Dix, George Grosz and Wassily Kandinsky. The Neue Nationalgalerie—now closed for several years for renovation—was already too small to show Berlin’s 20th-century collections when it opened and has previously had to display its treasures in rotating exhibitions.

Germany’s lower house of parliament earmarked €200m for the new museum in 2014. It will also allow recent gifts to be publicly displayed, including Heiner and Ulla Pietzsch’s collection of Surrealist art with works by Max Ernst, René Magritte and Joan Miró as well as American Abstract Expressionists such as Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock. The target opening date is 2020.

The competition’s initiators are also hoping the new museum will act as a magnet to bring visitors to the unloved Kulturforum, which once hugged the Berlin Wall on the western side and was built as the West’s answer to Museum Island in East Berlin.

As well as the Neue Nationalgalerie and the Philharmonie, the Kulturforum is home to the city’s Gemäldegalerie with its spectacular array of Old Masters, the Kupferstichkabinett containing prints and drawings, and the Kunstgewerbemuseum, or Museum of Decorative Arts.

“We have a unique chance—not only to gain a wonderful museum of 20th-century art on this site but at the same time to come up with the right city-planning solution for this special and yet very unfinished place,” says Hermann Parzinger, the president of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation.

The architects behind the winning plans will remain anonymous until the next stage of the competition is completed. Their models will go on display in a special exhibition at the Kulturforum near Potsdamer Platz from February 26 to March 13.

This is our new website, which is still incomplete. Please send any comments to Our old website is still live but is not being updated:

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies.

Accept cookies