As a continuation of Friedrich August Stüler’s forum architecture, the James-Simon-Galerie serves as the new entrance building for Museum Island, completing the ensemble between the Kupfergraben canal and the south-west façade of the Neues Museum. It is sited on a narrow strip of land where Karl Friedrich Schinkel’s ‘Neuer Packhof’ administration building stood until 1938. The building forms a key element of the masterplan for Museum Island, that was developed in 1999 to preserve the UNESCO World Heritage Site and simultaneously transform it into a contemporary museum complex. The James-Simon-Galerie provides direct access to the Pergamonmuseum as well as the Neues Museum and will function as the central reception building for the ‘Archaeological Promenade’, a walkway connecting four museums at basement level.
A staggering of the building dimensions preserves the visual connections from the Schlossbrücke into the depths of the Museum Island and the west façade of the Neues Museum. The high stone plinth of the building reinforces the bank of the Kupfergraben canal, above which a tall colonnade rises up, expressing a classical piano nobile.
Large parts of this principal level are accessible to the public outside opening hours, further extending the public realm of the Museum Island. Slender columns become a leitmotif, reminiscent of the famous sketch by Friedrich Wilhelm IV for his ‘cultural acropolis’. They continue Stüler’s colonnade that originally ended at Neues Museum, creating a small colonnaded courtyard between the Neues Museum and the James-Simon-Galerie.
The James-Simon-Galerie is suitable for welcoming large number of visitors, housing all the facilities required by the contemporary museum-goer. Three flights of wide steps, set between the elongated plinth and the lower colonnade, invite visitors into the building. Arriving at the upper level, visitors enter a generous foyer, with direct access to the main exhibition floor of the Pergamon Museum. The foyer encloses the cafeteria and opens out onto a grand terrace that runs the full length of the building. A mezzanine floor beneath the main entrance foyer accommodates the museum shop, a large cloakroom, toilet facilities and lockers, while the temporary exhibition spaces and an auditorium are situated in the basement level.