Museum Island Overview of the Buildings
Altes Museum Neues Museum Pergamonmuseum Bode-Museum Alte Nationalgalerie James-Simon-Galerie Archäologisches Zentrum Erweiterung Bode-Museum


The Museum Island Welcomes the World

Given the large number of visitors to the Museum Island, the James-Simon-Galerie is of crucial importance for the infrastructure of the museum complex. It will serve as the new entrance building offering the visitors guidance, information, and hospitality. It will assume central service functions for the Museum Island and thus relieve the strain on the historical exhibition venues.

In his design of the new building, architect David Chipperfield draws on the historical theme of Stüler’s colonnades. The sixth building on the Museum Island will thereby harmoniously blend in with the historical ensemble and at the same time set a modern accent on the Museum Island. The namesake of the new entrance building, James Simon, is one of the most important patrons in the history of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (National Museums in Berlin). His commitment to the arts and sciences is a shining example for modern patronage as well. The foundation stone for the James-Simon-Galerie was laid in fall 2013. The topping out ceremony was held in 2016.

© SPK / ART+COM, 2015

The Future Entrance Building

Aligned in a north-south direction, the James-Simon-Galerie is located between the Kupfergraben and the Neues Museum. In the future, visitors will be welcomed by a large, open flight of stairs which will be visible from the Lustgarten. In terms of architecture, the building alludes to the immediately adjoining Pergamonmuseum and the colonnades enclosing the Neues Museum and Alte Nationalgalerie. Between the Neues Museum and the James-Simon-Galerie, the New Courtyard is being created. The terrace of the James-Simon-Galerie, which faces southwest and offers a view over the Kupfergraben, will be another new Open Space f accessible to the public.

A Sixth Building on the Museum Island

The James-Simon-Galerie is the future visitors’ center of the Museum Island. It will be the central reception area and meet the modern expectations of the public towards one of the largest museum complexes in the world. In addition to a large area for ticket sales and information, the James-Simon-Galerie will feature checkrooms, a museum shop, a café and a restaurant, as well as an auditorium and space for special exhibitions.

Being the entrance to the Museum Island, the James-Simon-Galerie will serve as a central hub, providing direct access to the Ancient Architectures Tour and the Archaeological Promenade. This function of the new building is particularly useful for guided groups, which constitute more than half of the visitors to the Museum Island. That way, the James-Simon-Galerie will relieve the strain on the historical buildings and protect them from unnecessary attrition.

Allusions to the Historical Museum Island

The distinguishing architectural element of the James-Simon-Galerie is the historical theme of colonnades translated into modern form. Inspired by Stüler’s column walkway, a new, smaller column-lined courtyard is being created between the James-Simon-Galerie and the Neues Museum: the so-called New Courtyard. Columns are also the distinguishing feature on the side of the building that faces the Kupfergraben. The tall base of the James-Simon-Galerie will continue the architecture of the adjoining Pergamonmuseum. The building itself is a transparent structure defined by delicate columns and glass, offering a variety of views from both inside and outside.

The James-Simon-Galerie is harmoniously integrated into its historical environment by means of the individual elements. Due to the varying heights of the structures and the transparent design of the building, visitors will be able to enjoy various views of the façade of the Neues Museum. At the same time, today’s ahistorical vista, which allows an unimpeded view of the Neues Museum from the Kupfergraben, will be corrected and re-establish the historical structure of the ensemble.

The Interior of the Building

The James-Simon-Galerie is divided into three principal floors, a mezzanine between the upper floors, and a basement. All floors are connected by large stairs and elevators.

On the uppermost floor, which can be reached via the outside flight of stairs, visitors can obtain information and tickets. The café and the exit to the terrace, which will be largely accessible outside the opening hours, are also found on that level. From the New Courtyard, visitors can go directly to a small foyer and the auditorium. Checkrooms, lockers, restrooms, and the museum shop will be located on the mezzanine between these two foyer levels. Here, too, visitors will be able to enjoy a view of the Kupfergraben through a large window. From the small foyer, there will be access to the special exhibitions area and the passage to the Archaeological Promenade. The basement will be reserved for technical facilities and internal functions.

Why a Building for Service and Infrastructure?

The 1993 tenders for competition with regard to the renovation of the Neues Museum already included the item “construction of connecting and extension buildings.” When David Chipperfield Architects made plans for rebuilding the Neues Museum in the years that followed, it turned out that a separate building was needed to accommodate central service and infrastructure facilities. Hence, the Museum Island Master Plan, which was agreed upon in 1999, included the construction of a new entrance building. David Chipperfield Architects submitted a first concept for such a building as early as 2001. Chipperfield’s many years of engagement with the Museum Island as a World Heritage Site and his respect for the historical setting become apparent from the revised plan of 2007.

Customs Warehouses in 1920 (photograph) James-Simon-Galerie (visualization)

History of the Building Site

When the Spree Island was not yet the Museum Island, the expanse behind the Altes Museum was used as a commercial area. When Stüler devised the Neues Museum, he oriented himself on the new customs warehouse complex which was based on plans by Schinkel. He designed the imposing front of the building and its entrance on the eastern side where the Colonnade Courtyard was to emerge at a later point in time. Schinkel’s customs warehouse complex gradually gave way to the new museum buildings. The last parts of the customs warehouses were not demolished until the late 1930s, when the foundation walls had subsided in several places due to the poor quality of the soil.

Challenges of the Building Site

Under the building site of the James-Simon-Galerie is an eluviation dating from the Ice Age and stretching from the Altes Museum to the Pergamonmuseum. Due to this so-called “Kolklinse,” firm building ground is only to be found in depths of up to 40 meters in some places. In addition, the ground water level is about two and a half meters beneath the surface.

These prevailing conditions pose a huge technological challenge. For example, the building will rest on around 1,200 small-diameter bored piles anchored in the ground and a filled-in concrete bed under water. As soon as the bed is watertight, it will be possible to pump the water from the foundation ditch and begin with the shell construction.


The James-Simon-Galerie will be the central entrance building of the whole museum complex. As the individual museums will still be accessible via their historical entrances, the new building will not turn into a narrow passage. An outside flight of stairs facing the Lustgarten will guide the visitors to the upper floor, which will be on a level with the Ancient Architectures Tour of the Pergamonmuseum and will permit visitors direct access to the latter. On a lower level is the access to the Archaeological Promenade which will create a connection to four of the five historical museum buildings. Another entrance at ground level will be located in the New Courtyard between the James-Simon-Galerie and the Neues Museum.

Dates and Facts

  • Architect: David Chipperfield Architects
  • 2001: submission of concept by David Chipperfield Architects
  • 2006: Budget Committee decides in favor of funding the construction
  • 2007: presentation of the revised architects’ plan
  • 2009: beginning of preparatory construction works
  • 2013: laying of the foundation stone
  • 2016: topping out ceremony