Museum of the 20th Century

Berlin, Germany
Competition Entry in Collaboration with Studio_SK

The form for the Museum of the 20th Century is the result of many factors coming together – including vectors, program, and even the ebb and flow of modern architectural history – both in theory and form.  At once a path and a place, the project finds comfort not in simply being a destination, but in being the thing which informs one’s journey.  The design is formed by common pragmatic factors such as necessities of circulation, view and program, but is also effected by more complex items such as the historical legacy of its neighbors (most notably Mies’ National Gallery and Scharoun’s Philharmonic Hall) and the historical importance of its contents.

Through the push and pull of these forces, and eroded like an ancient landform, the project’s base acts as an organic threshold between the ground and the strictly delineated mass above.  While the majority of the erosion has a natural character, it is counterbalanced by a very purposefully formed void to the northwest, which acts as a protective vessel for an extremely important artifact on the site, the Plane Tree – designated as a national monument.  At the other sides, which all face significant architectural works, the design offers a more neutral backdrop, not competing at the level of materiality or detail found in St. Matthew’s Church, or the precision of Scharoun and Mies.

For access to adjacent areas, a subterranean connection ties the museum to the National Gallery.  On grade, a direct connection from the Berlin State Library tunnels through the base and lands in the heart of the Kulturforum and plane tree.  Finally, the main entrance stair is adjacent to Scharoun-Platz and lifts gently up, a-la Mies’ plinth, affording a space of relaxation under the cover of the hovering mass, while giving a nod to the classical nature of a cultural podium.

A portion of the rooftop is given over to the “Art Field”.  There, a visitor would encounter a large homogenous plane with works arranged on the surface.  A sort of Situationist construct, this abstract plan immediately puts into perspective the works of art the modern backdrop of the city in which they were borne.