Museum of the 20th Century

Berlin, Germany

Designed by Herzog & de Meuron, the Museum of the 20th Century will be located in Berlin’s Kulturforum – a cultural district near to Potsdamer Platz. The new museum will occupy the last remaining undeveloped area of land within this district, strengthening the quarter’s identity and appeal as a cultural destination.

An underground tunnel will connect the museum with the neighbouring Neue Nationalgalerie. Together the two buildings will finally offer enough space to showcase Berlin’s important collection of works, promising a comprehensive overview of art across the 20th century.

Buro Happold supported Herzog & de Meuron in the competition stage to design the new museum in 2016 and was subsequently commissioned to provide expert advice on the building services equipment and aspects of the lighting design.


The location of the new museum between the Philharmonie and the Neue Nationalgalerie made the project highly complex in terms of urban planning and technology. Delivering the highest quality exhibition spaces within the museum also represented a challenge as the technical services design needed to balance comfort, curatorial, and conservation demands to optimal effect. Additionally, the museum’s minimalist aesthetic meant that the technical services must be as hidden from view as possible.

The new museum will occupy a key location in Berlin’s Kulturforum, an area that features a high concentration of cultural institutions. Image: Herzog & de Meuron


Our teams are highly skilled in developing strategies for cultural buildings, using state of the art technologies to ensure both visitor comfort and the preservation of display collections.

To support the architectural intent and ensure the clean lines of the museum’s roof are maintained, it was important that the building services are not located at the top of the building. Accordingly, our design approach incorporates a ‘Technology Ring’ that is arranged around the depots in the second basement. This will supply precisely calibrated fresh air, heat, cooling and electricity to the building, while adhering to the strict climatic conditions demanded for museum spaces.

We specified a cascaded system of air handling units to meet the specific environmental conditions required to safeguard the museum’s artworks, as well as those that are on loan.

The museum has been designed to offer an “Open Plan” experience, rather than separating galleries from each other or the boulevard. We recommended that “Dynamic Air Curtains” should be employed to protect the exhibits. In order to identify the design requirements of the air curtain system and verify its effectiveness, we ran detailed computational fluid dynamics (CFD) model simulations.

As planner with overall responsibility, Buro Happold is also leading on aspects of the artificial lighting design concept and overseeing its implementation. Workshops, restauration spaces and public areas will be equipped with state of the art lighting systems in a manner that stages the art to optimal effect while minimising risk of damage.  

Aspects of the museum’s design aesthetic reference matthäuskirche, the nearby brick church. Image: Herzog & de Meuron


Throughout the design process, our team has applied their expertise to ensure the museum’s lighting and other environmental conditions support the highest standards of preservation, comfort and enjoyment. When complete, the Museum of the 20th Century will engage and inspire new audiences, further enriching the diverse cultural experience offered by this unique quarter.  

Main and final images: Herzog & de Meuron

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