Friday, 18 December 2009

Neues Musuem - Berlin

The Neues Museum in Berlin has opened to critical acclaim and the praise it is recieving is all down to the beautiful and painstaking renovation carried out by David Chipperfield Architects, in collaboration with conservation specialists Julian Harrap. The museum was designed by Friedrich August Steuler and built between 1841 and 1849. It's structure and contents were sensational at the time, the incredibly lightweight structure used the latest technology and was very innovative. The museum was damaged in 2 bombing raids during the Second World War and was left as a ruin in East Berlin. It was only after the Berlin wall was removed that any care was taken of the building and in 1997 David Chipperfield won the competition to rebuild it. This was not without controversy as many felt that such an important German building should not be left in the hands of a British Architect. There was also many differing opinions about the fate of the building, many wanted it restored to it's original design while others thought it should be replaced with a modernist structure. Chipperfield has not gone for either of these options but has managed to retain the buildings integrity by restoring original art work whilst also adding modern alterations.

The Ruined Building

The new central staircase and main hub of the museum. The staircase has caused a lot of controversy because of it's bold form and use of concrete. When describing the design on their website the architects say that "the new reflects the lost without imitating it". I think this has been successful, the stair has enhanced the original space and the scale, proportion and symmetry of the intervention echoes the past design without becoming a copy.

Restored Frescoes. When restoring the building the Architects worked to the principles set out in the Venice Charter and respected the historical structure in its different states of preservation. As you can see from the image above any damage to the fresco has been carefully restored with modern materials but no attempt at recreating the original artwork has been made. The damage to the building and its past as a ruin is clearly visible.

Modern alterations are bold yet simple and reflect the buildings grandeur.

Damage to Columns. This image shows how the damage to the building has been left exposed and not covered by new plaster or brickwork.

Restored Ceiling. Another example of the restoration approach used throughout the building.

The layering of old and new is what makes this building so interesting. If you knew nothing of the museums history you would still understand the spaces and be able to read its tumultuous past through the fabric of the building. The craftsmanship and the quality of the architectural detailing shines through and provides a stunning backdrop for the pieces on show as well as being artwork in their own right. Each room has been treated individually but yet they all come together to form a series of coherent spaces which are clearly legible. The modern additions are not over bearing or intrusive, although they are typical of Chipperfield's style they have been clearly considered and designed with the history of the building in mind.

New V&A Day-Lit Gallery - Construction Images

The images below are all from an article on BD Online about the MUMA Refurbishment of the V&A's Medieval and Renaissance Galleries, focusing on the creation of a new day-lit space between 2 buildings.

This was the existing lightwell which was only discovered after MUMA had been appointed to do the refurbishment. The project was initially much smaller but on discovery of this lightwell MUMA proposed a more ambitious project which was backed by the museum.

This is a visualisation of the space by MUMA. I like the almost ghostly quality of the image and the way light is represented.

The glass roof under construction. The roof cost 1.1 million and was an engineering challenge. It sits 14m above floor level and 73 glass beams span between the 2 buildings. The roof undulates as the pitch and length of the beams change, the roof slope varies between 19 and 39 degrees.

The glass beams appear to disappear into the brickwork, there are no obvious connections to distract the eye and the roof appears to float.

V&A Medieval and Renaissance Galleries

The newly refurbished Medieval and Renaissance Galleries have just opened at the V&A Museum in South Kensington. The architects were MUMA (McInnes Usher McKnight), a young architecture practice based in London. The refurbishment has taken 7 years to complete and includes the entire south east wing of the museum as well as a new day-lit gallery in the space between 2 buildings. I visited the galleries briefly on Tuesday and hope to return to spend some more time photographing the new alterations on Monday. Below are a few snaps I took on my first visit:

The New Central Staircase

The Bonita Trust Study Area

Staircase to the New Day-lit Gallery

New Glass Roof


The refurbishment of the Medieval and Renaissance Galleries is just one part of the V&A's larger Future Plan. The aim of Future Plan is to bring the V&A into the 21st century, improving facilities, such as the cafe which was also refurbished by MUMA and completed in 2006, galleries, including Ceramics (Stanton Williams) and Jewellery (Eva Jiricna Architects Ltd), and also new contemporary exhibition space by Block Architecture. The Medieval and Renaissance Galleries form a large part of this plan and have improved circulation throughout the building by introducing a central staircase and lift which for the first time links all 6 levels of the museum. I think my favourite part of the refurbishment is the new day-lit gallery which uses the previously wasted space between 2 buildings. A glass roof has been added to make the space internal but the history of the space is very clear and easily read. The curved wall of the adjacent gallery has been used to create a seating space to admire the large scale pieces on display. These include a facade of a building which survived the Great Fire of London and a spiral staircase.

I think the refurbishment is succesful and the new displays are beautifully designed (also my MUMA), the lighting scheme is particularly interesting and lighting has been used throughout the galleries to create different atmospheres. The new alterations are obvious and do not try to blend in with the existing building or to compete with it. The subtle use of modern materials; including polished concrete, glass and steel, has created a contemporary space which complements the existing architecture.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Derelict London

Derelict London is a website set up by Paul Talling as a photographic portrait of a different side of London. It is a collection of images of derelict or ruined buildings throughout London; some people have also contributed memories of the buildings or pleas to save them from demolition. Derelict London is also now a book. It is a fascinating record of these buildings and areas of London where regeneration has yet to take effect or that have simply been forgotten. It also provides a different view of the city that we are so used to seeing and brings to light the plight of some of these wonderful buildings. All his images are copyrighted so I couldn't include any on the blog but please visit his website, there is a lot of inspiration for sites!