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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.

+ David Chipperfield Architects

+ 2011 Mies van der Rohe Award