Transparent and Archaic: Jacques Herzog on the Preliminary Design of the Museum des 20. Jahrhunderts

11.10.2018Transparent and Archaic: Jacques Herzog on the Preliminary Design of the Museum des 20. Jahrhunderts

Herzog & de Meuron, an architecture office in Basel, is designing the new Museum des 20. Jahrhunderts. Together with the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, they are refining the design they submitted to the competition. In an interview, Jacques Herzog explains what needs to be considered when constructing a museum in the 21st century and why the design is ideal for the Kulturforum.

The interview was conducted by Gesine Bahr.

Wooden model of the preliminary design
Wooden model of the preliminary design for the Museum des 20. Jahrhunderts by Herzog & de Meuron © SPK/photothek.net/Thomas Trutschel

In October 2016, the design submitted by Herzog & de Meuron architectural office won the competition for the Museum des 20. Jahrhunderts (Museum of the 20th Century) to be located in the Kulturforum in Berlin with a building in an archetypal form and an open brick facade. In its interior, two boulevards intersect. Berlin loves nicknames, and a nickname for the building was not long in coming: it was casually called “the barn.” Since January 2018 and in close consultation with its future users, the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (National Museums in Berlin), Herzog & de Meuron have continued to develop their submission into a preliminary design. As the director of the Nationalgalerie (National Gallery), Udo Kittelmann, put it on the day of the presentation: “The barn has turned into a museum. It will be one that can meet the demands of 21st-century museum visitors.” According to Kittelmann, those demands have changed dramatically in the past ten years. Nowadays a museum is also a place to meet, a place to debate in a democratic setting.

The new building will obviously have to meet some expectations – one of which is “healing” the Kulturforum, which is often described as being barren and a faceless place because of its fragmentation. For this reason, Herzog began his presentation of the preliminary design with the words: “Our urban planning concept for the Kulturforum is one of closeness and density, not emptiness.” After the podium discussion on October 9, 2019, he briefly explained what he meant and how to construct a museum for the 21st century.

Jacques Herzog on the new building for the Museum des 20. Jahrhunderts

Design views, fall 2019

Herzog & de Meuron

Herzog & de Meuron is a partnership run by Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron in which Christine Binswanger, Ascan Mergenthaler, and Stefan Marbach are senior partners. Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron established their office in Basel in 1978. The partnership has grown over the years. Herzog & de Meuron have offices in Basel, Hamburg, London, New York City, and Hong Kong.

The buildings that Herzog & de Meuron have designed and realized for cultural institutions include the Tate Gallery of Modern Art (2000) and its fabulous extension (2016) in London, Vitra Haus (2009) and the Vitra Schaudepot (2015) in Weil am Rhein, the extension and renovation of Musée Unterlinden in Colmar, France (2015), the Museum der Kulturen in Basel (2010), and the Elbphilharmonie (2017) in Hamburg.

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