The island of endless construction

The roving collections of Berlin’s Museumsinsel

MúzeumCafé 37.

On Berlin’s Museum Island construction is underway almost everywhere. Work has been continuous since reunification of the German capital, though a comprehensive plan appeared only in 1999, when the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation accepted the so-called Master Plan for renewal of the island. Since then two other major plans have appeared and thus the island’s current five buildings (the Pergamon, Altes, Neues and Bode Museums, plus the Old National Gallery) are not only being renovated, modernised and extended, but a new unit is being created. According to plans the island’s reception building will be ready by 2017, housing cafés, shops, restaurants and other facilities. Berliners regard the project as an important element of the city’s reunification, since not only will the island’s collections be rearranged, the paintings of ‘old masters’ will be moved from former West Berlin and the exhibition of ethnographic, East Asian and Indian arts taken to the Dahlem district will return to their place on the island. The plan is hotly debated in Germany. Some oppose the new reception building or the underground connections between the old buildings. Some regard the new plans as too modern and expensive, while others see the transfer of the ‘old masters’ to the Bode Museum as a disruption of the museum’s current collection. The Master Plan is always in the German media. The dates for laying the foundation stone and for completion are constantly being postponed, while the costs are soaring. According to the latest statement of Germany’s public construction authority, the reception building will open in 2017, not 2014, while the Pergamon Museum predictably will only be fully ready in 2025. Initially 385 million euros was allocated for the work, but already in 2012 that was seen to be inadequate.