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Colonnade Courtyard

Arcadia in Berlin

When the Colonnade Courtyard reopened in 2010, an Arcadian place emerged on the Museum Island. The courtyard, which is planted with tall sycamores and smaller greenery, is an atmospheric asset to the outstanding architecture of the museums surrounding it.

The Colonnade Courtyard was originally built in several phases together with the Neues Museum and the Alte Nationalgalerie. It is distinguished from the urban space by the colonnaded hallway that encloses it. At the same time, it establishes links to the buildings on the island. Featuring permanently installed historical sculptures and changing exhibits of modern sculpture, the Colonnade Courtyard is an enchanted place in the heart of Berlin.

The colonnades were restored by the office of Architekten Petersen. When the courtyard and its greenery were newly designed by Levin Monsigny, the then existing differences in altitude were leveled so that the Colonnade Courtyard is now barrier-free. The special illumination of the courtyard was awarded the German Prize for Lighting Design in 2011.

© SPK / ART+COM, 2015

A Stroll through the Colonnade Courtyard

The surrounding architecture lends the Colonnade Courtyard its distinctness. It is enclosed by the Neues Museum, the Alte Nationalgalerie, and a colonnaded hallway. The plant decoration inside the historical structure has been reinterpreted. Various species of boxwood now create a lively play of green colors. Visitors to this historical sculptural garden can take a seat at the historical fountain which has been set up again in the center of the courtyard. In the future, visitors strolling through the atmospheric colonnaded hallway along the Alte Nationalgalerie on the Spree side will be able to walk to behind the Pergamonmuseum.

Reference to the Historical Predecessor Building

Like the Museum Island as a whole, the Colonnade Courtyard redesigned by the landscape architects Levin Monsigny is a landmarked building. Its structural layout is based on the historical ground plan. Still existing elements of the original courtyard were integrated in its redesign. For example, the quatrefoil fountain, which had been in storage, was set up again in the center of the Colonnade Courtyard. The natural stone used for the floor space of the courtyard retraces the walkways of the original Colonnade Courtyard, whose historical design was realized by 1880 based on a blueprint by the former director of the zoological garden, Eduard Neide.

The Colonnades

Friedrich Wilhelm IV explicitly wanted colonnades on the Museum Island, and Friedrich August Stüler submitted a blueprint for them in 1841. The colonnades on the south and east side of the Neues Museum were built between 1853 and 1860. Those on the banks of the Spree were constructed between 1876 and 1878 based on updated plans by Johann Heinrich Strack and Georg Erbkam. The architects added pavilion-like structures with domed roofs at the northern and southern ends of the hallway, and they also built a small temple-like pavilion at its center.

The Berlin-based architects Petersen reconstructed the colonnades according to their original appearance. This included the use of original fragments buried in the vault beneath the colonnades. The closed colonnades on the Spree and behind the Alte Nationalgalerie, which are currently being used as workshops for the Staatliche Museen Berlin (National Museums in Berlin), will be restored at a later point in time.


In keeping with the regulations for historical buildings, Levin Monsigny reinterpreted the plant decoration in the Colonnade Courtyard. The landscape architects enlarged the planted areas in proportion to the surfaced parts. That way, the landscape design lends structure to the space of the Colonnade Courtyard and highlights existing symmetries. Various species of boxwood create a play of colors in shades of green and fill the air with their aromatic fragrance.

The lawns in front of the Alte Nationalgalerie, which are enclosed by geometrically trimmed boxwood hedges, exude a calmness that complements the atmosphere of the courtyard. The short boxwood hedges on the sides have gaps for ivy and ground-covering perennials from which sculptures and trees emerge. The various plants in these areas bloom at different times of the year, creating an attractive contrast to the austerity of the trimmed boxwood hedges.