David Chipperfield: Two Cities, Two Projects

The British architect discusses his designs for Berlin’s Neues Museum and Mexico City's Museo Jumex.

June 29, 2015

Recorded on May 20, 2015.

Current Work is a lecture series featuring leading figures in the worlds of architecture, urbanism, design, and art.

Founded in 1985, London-based David Chipperfield Architects is recognized for its ability to design buildings that quietly but forcefully create place with their sculptural form.

Chipperfield’s Current Work lecture focuses on two recent museum projects: the James Simon Galerie at Berlin’s Neues Museum and the Museo Jumex in Mexico City. With both, Chipperfield sought to “find appropriate relationship with their place, both physically and socially.”

The firm won a 2007 competition to rebuild the historic Neues Museum, bombed twice during World War II and left as a ruin. The design responds to weighty contextual relationships, both to the adjacent institutions on Berlin’s Museum Island and to a city “in a continuous process of reconstruction and reconsideration” following reunification after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Chipperfield creates a sympathetic but not mimetic relationship between old and new through a process of “restoring, repairing, and adding to” with the remains of the bombed building.

The Museo Jumex sits hemmed in on a triangular site and navigates a vastly different context, that of a “developing place with no apparent city plan.” A powerful form that is “self-consciously asserting itself,” the travertine-clad building rests on a raised plinth and is topped with a saw-toothed roof. The interior offers flexible, minimally defined spaces for a variety of exhibitions and programs.

Together, the projects illustrate the firm’s commitment to design typologies that are “architecturally, socially, and intellectually coherent.”