A profound statement of living history, the recently remodeled Neues Museum in Berlin bears witness to its past -- and it just won the 2011 Mies van der Rohe Award in recognition of its subtle transition into the 21st century. Lead architect David Chipperfield set out to preserve the museum, which was nearly destroyed during the Second World War, while adding to its continuity through carefully introduced design elements. The result is a unique space that blends historic art relics with a facade pierced by bullet holes during WW2 to tell the story of human history.
The museum’s most famous piece, the bust of Nefertiti, has returned to its place in the museum after 70 years of absence. Over the course of the 19th century the museum has seen war and decay severely erode its refined interiors. The painstaking work to restore the space started in 2003, and in Mr. Chipperfield’s words “the design is not about contrast, but continuity”. All of the original elements are kept intact — flaked murals, bullet-laden stone walls and chipped ionic columns stand alongside the finely detailed finishes that survived.
The building’s modern elements and systems are simple, clean, and discrete — adding a kind of negative space that enhances the rich detail of the original building. The European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture Award pays tribute to this project’s success in telling the story of humanity.