Construction site tour in Berlin: Will the Pergamon Museum be opened until 2025?

Opening 2025?
:This is what it looks like on the monumental construction site Pergamonmuseum

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    Nicholas Bernau

This is what it looks like at the construction site in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.

This is what it looks like at the construction site in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.


Thomas Uhlemann

Anyone who passes by the S-Bahn on Museum Island may have wondered in the past few years what is actually happening behind the scaffolding on the north wing of the Pergamonmuseum. Especially as these were becoming increasingly dense, more and more new support structures and huge exterior structures were created towards the city railway line and the monumental courtyard of the Pergamon Museum.

In addition, a huge outer roof was built. In 2014, the hall was closed with the sculptures of the Pergamon Altar in the east wing, the mystery has become even bigger. Since then, only the southern wing with the Near Eastern antiquities, the Museum of Islamic Art and the hall with the Roman-antique market gate from Miletus are accessible.

Finally, on Friday, the topping out ceremony for the first phase of the gigantic project will be celebrated, after the founding work for the new entrance pavilion, the rehabilitation of the foundations and some security measures has been completed and the space frame in the Hellenistic Hall could be dismantled. An ultimately rather fictitious date, which serves above all to show after the many, many construction delays of the public: Something happens.

This is what it looks like on the construction site in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.

This is what it looks like on the construction site in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.


Thomas Uhlemann

Order to the “Werkgemeinschaft Pergamonmuseum”

Finally, the competition took place in 1999, won the Oswald Mathias Ungers with a usual radically geometrizing project, 2007, the contract was awarded to the “Werkgemeinschaft Pergamon Museum” under the auspices of the office of Jan Kleihues and 2012 deceased architect Andreas Noebel, 2011 there once again heated debates with the preservation of monuments. It was followed by ongoing construction problems.

In the meantime hardly anyone remembers the opening originally promised for 2010, also 2018 has already passed. Current margin: middle of 2023. Or spring of 2025. The many problems that have accumulated in the construction which has been neglected for decades, but which are also caused by the execution of Ungers’ plans, which often penetrate deeply into the building stock, have caused the administrations to be cautious.

On Tuesday afternoon, a press tour already took place through the north and east wings. He showed what a fascinating, but in their radicality of access to the existing building also terrifying construction site is here to experience; At the weekend, the museums of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation and the Federal Office for Building and Regional Planning – it manages the construction work – offer guided tours, for which you have to register in advance.

Pergamon construction site in Berlin: setting new lifts in the thick old walls

From the elimination of a known from the files, but still forgotten by the planners building tests on huge civil engineering works in concrete and the installation of a monumental-representative new access system with wide stairs, the caulking of new elevators in the thick old walls to the most careful heritage preservation here pretty much every challenge that is possible on construction sites.

Hardly any plaster surface is still intact, entire walls and even historical staircases disappeared, huge supporting structures were also built inside, which protect those historical ceilings from the fall in the north wing, to which Unger’s plan of a large hall on the main floor took the main supporting wall.

In the altar room are still the huge protective scaffolding, with which the ancient sculptures are preserved from harm; highly complicated measuring instruments register shocks and even changes in the millimeter range immediately. In the Hellenistic Hall, some of the pillars and architectural structures have since been freed from their rebuilding, here, in particular, the light ceiling can be seen again.

Illuminated ceiling in the Pergamon Museum: Monument of the very first rank

Its huge construction is the only one that survived the Second World War of all the skylights of the Pergamon Museum largely unscathed. A technical monument of the very first rank. Instead of accepting that one does not yet work with today’s insulation values in 1930 – no cathedral is being treated with them! – the building authorities decided that also in this hall double glasses with appropriate weight had to be confiscated.

The historical building construction was doubled in agreement with the historic preservation because of this, which will result in the fact that also in this daylight hall – the architects Messel and Hoffmann had conceived him rather as covered yard – in the future artificial light must be contributed.

After all, here is a historical spatial artwork of the future again given. Quite different in the north wing, the former German Museum: Here was a huge row of columns, which is intended to support the future Mschatta Hall instead of the former main wall intended for demolition. He will receive no natural light, only to be lit by an artificial light ceiling.

Rabitz installation from the time of the First World War

Remains of the former architecture of the German Museum can still be seen, but soon they will be gone. On the ground floor, however, a rabbi installation from the time of the First World War is to be preserved as a “historical trace”; he shows even in its damaged state what was destroyed here.

Exterior view of the construction site of the Pergamonmuseum in Berlin.

Exterior view of the construction site of the Pergamonmuseum in Berlin.


Thomas Uhlemann

Another massive intervention in the north wing is the huge new staircase. A remarkably roughly concreted space; one can only hope that the promise of the architect Jan Kleihues, the still to be applied panels and details will make this rather claustrophobic space appear elegant in the future, fulfilled. His experiences with monumentality, ax-fetishism and giant forms from the construction of the huge BND headquarters on Chausseestrae, which he designed, are likely to come to fruition here.

The Pergamon Museum is not only for the first time since its inauguration in 1930 and the removal of heavy war damage to 1955 thoroughly renovated. It is also adapted to the needs of modern mass tourism. Converted to the cubic meter or exhibition square meter, it will probably be the most expensive museum building in German museum history. Currently, the construction costs for the north and east wings are calculated at 477 million euros, including inflation surcharge, is insured. Internally, the costs have long been estimated at half a billion euros.

New construction of the “Fourth Wing”

In addition, the costs for the rehabilitation of the south wing and the new construction of the “fourth wing” according to the plans of Ungers and Kleihues have not yet been calculated. The Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation has just awarded the planning contract. Also, the investigations of the south wing are not yet completed. Nevertheless, it is assured that the costs will not be as high as those for the north and east wings; it has now gained experience, and the project is still being revised, so that the intervention in the stock could be expected to be lower.

But it should be remembered: It was the south wing, which caused the most problems right at the beginning of the Pergamon Museum since 1908, since it stands directly above that notorious Kolk – a glacial mud and modder mine that reaches up to 60 meters deep and already the Construction of the New Museum since 1840 and a few years ago the disabled of the new entrance building to the Museum Island.

When a concrete bridge over this Kolk was finally struck in 1913, almost the entire planned budget of 6 million gold marks was already used up for the construction of the Pergamon Museum: Time delays and cost increases have a long tradition here. One billion euros, which has long been talked about in the administrations, are by no means excluded. This would far exceed the worst fears of the critics of the project, which has always existed since the 1999 competition. But it should also be noted: No one can foresee in the light of the experience so far serious on a present (!) At least until 2034 unplugged total construction time.

A new building up to the last foundation joint

Sure, but can be stated: Even the Humboldt Forum is comparatively cheap with its current estimates about 620 million euros. However, this is, in the debates about the alleged “castle” repeatedly pushed, a new building to the last foundation joint, for all the disturbing old parts – the cellars of the Imperial Palace in particular – were allowed to be demolished.

In the Pergamon Museum, on the other hand, some of the measures that were thoroughly considered, such as the complete gutting of the northern wing, were taboo from the outset. Not because of the need to exaggerate the care of the historic monuments – these are the real losers of any battle that was really about the old plans of the museums to disrupt the old buildings, especially in the North Wing. However, the Pergamon Museum has been on the World Heritage list since 1999, along with the other buildings. This building is also part of the foreign policy of the Federal Republic.