David Chipperfield's Berlin temple: 'Like ascending to the realm of the gods'

Photo of David Chipperfield's Berlin temple: 'Like ascending to the realm of the gods'
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James Simon Gallery, Berlin
Twenty years in the making, this dazzling synthesis of the classical and modern takes Museum Island to new heights

Friedrich Wilhelm IV described his vision for Berlin’s Museum Island as a “cultural acropolis”; a sacred sanctuary for the arts and sciences that would cement the Prussian capital as the Athens of the north. Almost two centuries later, the kaiser’s classical aspirations have been fulfilled by British architect David Chipperfield, in the form of a dazzling white temple. Opening this weekend, after 20 years of planning, the James Simon Gallery stands as a €134m (£120m) Parthenon-on-Spree, forming a handsome new entrance to one of the world’s most important repositories of cultural treasures.

“We were quite nervous,” says Chipperfield, standing in the lofty new ticketing lobby, where stripes of sunlight flood in between the row of slender white columns outside. “The challenge was how to create something that was of its context and also of our time, in this incredibly sensitive location.”

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