Between 1823 and 1930, a unique ensemble of museums emerged on the Spree Island. The UNESCO, in its reasoning for including the Museum Island Berlin in the World Heritage List, describes it as the most outstanding example of the concept of the art museum that owes its origins to the Age of Enlightenment. The Museum Island was designed by some of the most eminent architects of their time – Karl Friedrich Schinkel, Friedrich August Stüler, Ernst Eberhard von Ihne and Alfred Messel. Each of the five museums is an individual building that blends in harmoniously with the overall picture of the island. In the context of the Museum Island Master Plan, further buildings will be carefully added to the historical ensemble. Just as in former times, world-famous architects such as David Chipperfield are in charge of this today. The realization of the building projects in the context of the Museum Island Master Plan rests with the Federal Office for Building and Regional Planning.
It was agreed upon in the Master Plan to preserve the historical character of the buildings while at the same time making them more of an experience as a museum complex. The buildings will be renovated according to modern, visitor-oriented standards. They will keep their historical entrances, but new accesses and connections will be additionally created: the James-Simon-Galerie will serve as a central reception building which will allow visitors access to the museum
ensemble. The Archaeological Promenade will connect four of the five museums to each other. The Open Spaces on the island will be redesigned in order to integrate the buildings into a harmonious overall environment. Internal functions of the museums have been moved to the newly built Archäologisches Zentrum so that the museums can be used exclusively as exhibition sites.
The individual buildings of the Museum Island complex as a whole are oriented towards different cardinal directions. They relate to one another and open the Museum Island towards the South, West, and North.
Complex of Buildings in the Center of Historical Berlin
The Altes Museum was originally planned to stand opposite the former Berlin Palace. Together with the Alte Nationalgalerie and the Neues Museum they form a southward-oriented ensemble. The Neues Museum and the Alte Nationalgalerie represent part of the overall plan designed in 1841 by Friedrich August Stüler as a “Sanctuary for Art and Science” on the Spree Island. The railroad line built in 1882 created a different situation on the northern tip of the island. The Bode-Museum and the Pergamonmuseum face north and west, respectively, and are oriented towards the Kupfergraben. The bridges at the tip of the island connect the museums both with the Humboldt University in Berlin and the quarter around Oranienburger Strasse and the Hackesche Höfe.
New Buildings Blend in with the Historical Ensemble
On the other side of the Kupfergraben, the Archäologisches Zentrum was opened in fall 2012. With its southward orientation it creates a spatial and content-related connection to the Humboldt University in Berlin and the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin (Berlin State Library), both of which represent part of the already existing educational and scholarly infrastructure in the heart of Berlin. The Archäologisches Zentrum was built on the site of the so-called Museum Courtyards, which is divided into two large urban development units. The other part of the Museum Courtyards is intended for use by the Stiftung Preussicher Kulturbesitz (Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation) as well. On the island itself, west of the Neues Museum, there is an as yet unused area which came into being when the last customs warehouse buildings were demolished in the late 1930s. There, in the immediate vicinity of the Pergamonmuseum and Neues Museum, the James-Simon-Galerie will be constructed to serve as the new entrance building. It will have a southward orientation towards the Lustgarten, and visitors will already be able to see it from Unter den Linden. In the future, the Humboldt-Forum on the Schlossplatz will be a content-related extension to the Museum Island.