Berlin’s Museum Island has its first new addition in almost a century

With five museums, the famous Museum Island in Berlin is a huge cultural attraction, and its latest addition has just been unveiled.

The exterior of the James Simon Gallery on Museum Island in Berlin
The new James-Simon-Galerie on Museum Island in Berlin. Image: Soeren Stache/AFP/Getty Images

The James-Simon-Galerie is the first new building to open on the island in nearly a century, and it serves as the entrance building for the Unesco Heritage Site, completing the ensemble between the Kupfergraben canal and Neues Museum. It is a 300-seater auditorium with a central ticket office, shop, restaurant and exhibition space, and it was built at a cost of €134 million ($151 million). The gallery was designed by British architect David Chipperfield, who had to completely redesign it after his first design didn't impress the people of Berlin.

The exterior of the James Simon Gallery on Museum Island in Berlin
The James-Simon-Galerie on Museum Island in Berlin. Image: Soeren Stache/AFP/Getty Images

The planning process ultimately took 20 years and the construction phase lasted a decade. The final restorations on the island are expected to be completed by 2025. The new space is named after James Simon, a 19th-century Jewish philanthropist. It honours the art lover who donated the iconic Nefertiti bust and the Babylonian Ishtar Gate to the Berlin collections in the early 1900s as part of over 10,000 objects he donated to the German city’s museums.

The interior of the James Simon Gallery on Museum Island in Berlin
The 300-seater auditorium has a central ticket office, shop, restaurant and exhibition space. Image: Christoph Soeder/picture alliance via Getty Images

The James-Simon-Galerie was officially opened in the presence of German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and it provides direct access to the Pergamon and the Neues Museum. A subterranean "Archaeological Promenade" will ultimately lead to four of island's five museum buildings. Museum Island was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1999, and its five museums attract more than 3m visitors per year. They were built between 1830 and 1930.

The "Lying Lion" sculpture by the artist August Gaul from the Rudolf Mosse Collection in the James Simon Gallery
The "Lying Lion" by the artist August Gaul from the Rudolf Mosse Collection in the James-Simon-Galerie in Berlin. Image: Gregor Fischer/picture alliance via Getty Images

Further information on the James-Simon-Galerie can be found here.