Berlin is a city shrouded by traumatic history and full of unexpected moments of beauty. This project proposes an art gallery dedicated to the oeuvre of Gerhard Richter, situated in the cultural heart of Mitte, Berlin’s central district. Despite prolific bomb damage the curving street of Klosterstraße on which the site is situated retains its medieval character.
The proposed gallery exploits the potential for the reuse of two existing public buildings with a new concrete vaulted structure that envelops an eighteenth-century Baroque church and an office building to form a 9,000-square-meter composition. The spatial disposition and character derive from the interpretation of formal geometries and city typologies. Games are played, reversing material conditions at thresholds, transitioning from as-found spaces to new gallery cloisters and circulation halls. Influences are drawn from some of Berlin’s most distinct architectural identities: the party wall, classical monuments and their pervasive austerity, as well as revisiting the Parisian Hotel, Andrea Palladio, and Francesco Borromini.
The program of the gallery is oriented around Gerhard Richter’s landscape paintings, works that were made “to see the extent to which we still need beauty—to see whether it’s still conceivable today.” These works emanate an emotional silence as they confront the inevitable violence of man and nature. The gallery seeks to emulate if not match the artist’s experimentation with order, magnificent spatial depth, powerful atmospheres, and architectural framing. Each room attempts to connect painting, proportion, light, and symmetry.
The repatriation of Richter’s Baader-Meinhof series is imagined. The fifteen paintings are hung in the alcoves of the existing Baroque church, drawing parallels between religion and the political context of art, between spiritual space and national gallery, and between the grand scale in architecture and the status of a painterly master.
The pragmatic contingencies of the gallery are addressed—building law, site restrictions, structure, construction, performance, art handling, public facilities, accessibility, and environmental control. The superstructure generates the architectural expression. Prefabricated concrete elements mimic the solid brick vaults of the church, giving an expression of deep thresholds while their thin profiles allow service voids to channel up through the walls and ceiling.