This modest but perfectly formed private gallery overlooking Berlin's Museum Island occupies the exact footprint of a building destroyed by wartime bombing. The job was won with a competition entry put together during a lull in the long campaign that is the Neues Museum by the team working on that project.
It is a work of art in itself, a four storey piece of sculpture – three floors of 5.5 metre high galleries, the fourth a private apartment-cum-gallery. The galleries are side lit from different aspects, and shaded by manually operated timber shutters of solidity and great beauty. These work so well that galleries can be blacked out – which would be a shame, since – following Beuys' own edict that gallery lighting should precede the placement of the art - it is the play of natural light through the vast plates of glass that determines the nature of the gallery spaces. These windows also frame views of the city, most notably on the second floor, across a terrace and the Lustgarten, to the site of the DDR's Palast der Republik and in time, that of the reborn baroque palace.
The outer walls use salvaged bricks pointed and washed with a pale lime slurry that makes the building appear to dematerialise.
David Chipperfield's work is well known for its understatedness, the apparent simpicity of its forms belying the skill and effort involved in their delivery. Here the firm has delivered an appropriately modest private gallery amid the restored grandeur of the 19th century state museums.