World Heritage / Museumsinsel
Bodestraße 1-3, Mitte; 1824-30 by Karl Friedrich Schinkel
The Altes Museum in the Lustgarten "Leisure Garden" emerged as the first structure of the extensive museum complex built by Karl Friedrich Schinkel from 1824-30 as an urban counterbalance to the Berliner Castle. It is the one of first buildings in Europe to have been constructed expressly as an museum. Schinkel offset the Hohenzollernschloss, a symbol of political power, with a building which could be regarded as a structure of early bourgeois culture, made open and accessible through its floating colonnades and a broad, open staircase. Here, the royal art collections were exhibited publicly for the first time and became accessible to all.
A broad staircase flanked by sculptures leads to a hall supported by eighteen Ionic sandstone pillars and two corner pilasters. The entire length of attic facing the Leisure Garden carries the inscription: "FRIDERICUS GUILELMUS III STUDIO ANTIQUITATIS OMNIGENIAE ET ARTIUM LIBERALIUM MUSEUM CONSTITUIT MDCCCXXVIII" ("Friedrich Wilhelm III dedicated this museum to the study of all antiquity and liberal arts in 1828"). The portico leads through an impressive main portal of bronze to a double staircase ending in an upper hall resembling a vestibule. The staircase and vestibule, separated by a colonnade create a fascinating impression of both interior and exterior space while offering an unusual panorama of Berlin: the Leisure Garden, the Cathedral, the former castle square and the armory. The rotunda adjacent on the interior, an adaptation of the Roman Pantheon painted according to Schinkel's specifications and with Greek statues positioned between the pillars, was intended as a solemn space to set the mood for the museum visit. The Altes Museum, which had been partly destroyed during the war, was restored until 1966. It is among the oldest, artistically most significant architectural works of Karl Friedrich Schinkel.