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Chipperfield and Harrap kick off the World Architecture Festival

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The World Architecture Festival 2010 in Barcelona began today with an opening session by David Chipperfield Architects and Julian Harrap Architects discussing their restoration of the Neues Museum in Berlin

When faced with restoring the Neues Museum in Berlin, David Chipperfield Architects and Julian Harrap Architects had to balance the demands of a Beaux Arts approach of total reconstruction and a more archeological approach, explained Rik Nys from Chipperfield’s office and Julian Harrap (pictured).

In the opening session of the World Architecture Festival, they spoke about the way that they restored the volume and circulation of the original building, while keeping a clear distinction between what was new and what was not, an approach anaologous to the way in which old pots are restored.

So for instance in the central Treppehall  (stair hall), where the original murals had been almost entirely destroyed by wartime bombing, it was futile to try to recreate them. Instead, the walls were rebuilt using reclaimed bricks.

Technological challenges included making new vaults using the old technique of pot construction, and creating invisible repairs and support to fatally weakened cast iron beams.

‘There were three levels of work: rebuilding, repair and restoration,’ said Nys. Alongside detailed conservation, there were huge prefabricated elements brought in.

The approach to conservation was that all repairs should be visible close up but that from a distance the integrity of the elements should be restored.

By creating a new entrance building, now under construction, which will link all the buildings on Berlin’s museum island, and incorporate new facilities, the architects were able to maintain the original modest entrance door, dating back to the days when this was a private museum for the royal family and guests.

There was some resistance in Berlin to the approach to restoration, but the final result has proved popular and has won prizes.


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