Herzog & de Meuron wins competition to build Berlin’s Museum of the 20th Century

Winning design is compared to a station, an indoor riding school, a temple and a marquee


The Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron has won a competition to build a new museum of 20th-century art in central Berlin with a long, low red-brick design that invited comparisons to a rail station, a barn, a temple and an indoor market.

The site for the new museum is between Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s metal-and-glass Neue Nationalgalerie and Hans Scharoun’s spiky gold Philharmonic, two architectural landmarks of the 1960s. It is also flanked on one side by Friedrich August Stüler’s red-brick 19th-century St Matthäus Kirche.

The winning design “doesn’t attempt to compete with the ‘divas’ by Scharoun and Mies van der Rohe,” said Hermann Parzinger, the president of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, at a press conference today (27 October). “But it still makes a very strong statement. It achieves an almost impossible feat by healing this place and bringing together these buildings.”

The Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation announced plans for the new museum in 2013. The Neue Nationalgalerie—closed for several years for renovation—was already too small to show Berlin’s vast 20th-century collections when it opened. Germany’s lower house of parliament earmarked €200m for the new museum in 2014. The target opening date is 2021.

“A riding school? A station? A depot? All these associations are correct,” said the architect Jacques Herzog. He said he wants the new museum to be about more than just admiring art, but also about activity, communication, nutrition and performance. Herzog & de Meuron have designed several museums, including the Tate Modern and its new extension.

The winning design for Berlin was chosen from a shortlist of 42 and the selection process was anonymous, so the jury did not know the architects behind the designs. Second prize was awarded to Lundgaard & Tranberg Arkitekter A/S from Copenhagen and third prize went to the Berlin architect Bruno Fioretti Marquez.