David Chipperfield’s Nazi-Era Renovation Plan of Munich’s Haus der Kunst Sparks Outrage

The architect wants to revert the museum to its original fascist design.

Haus der Kunst, Munich. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Star architect David Chipperfield’s €78 million ($83.7 million) renovation plan to revert Munich’s Haus der Kunst to its original Nazi-era state has provoked outrage amongst Jewish groups and locals.

Originally called “House of German Art,” the museum was opened by Adolf Hitler in 1937 to promote the National Socialist’s perception of art, becoming symbolic of the persecution of so-called “degenerate” artists during Nazi Germany.

The museum has made a concerted effort through the years to challenge its sinister past with a diverse and multifaceted program and has established itself as one of the most important institutions in Germany. However Chipperfield’s renovation plan has been denounced as a step backwards from the progress that the museum has made.

Chipperfield plans to restore the exterior of the building and the surrounding grounds to the original Nazi-era state. A key element of the plan includes the removal of a postwar line of trees from the front of the entrance. The removal of the greenery would allow an unobstructed view of the monumental architecture with its 22 prominent columns and wide staircase.

Haus der Kunst during Nazi Germany. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Haus der Kunst during Nazi Germany. Photo Wikimedia Commons.

The architect’s office called the design “visible and transparent,” and Bavarian culture minister Ludwig Spaenle said the design “reveals the past of the building” and promotes a platform for dialogue around the institution which is “highly charged with history.”

Indeed, renderings of Chipperfield’s design proposal look almost identical to photos of the building from the Nazi era, albeit without the prominent swastika flag.

Charlotte Knobloch, president of the Israelitische Kultusgemeinde (Israelite Cultural Community) in Munich sharply criticized the plans. “To think about reconstructing Nazi architecture is incomprehensible to me” told Rundschau, and criticized Bavarian culture minister Spaenle for supporting the architect’s proposal. “I consider this backward-looking design based on the history of Nazi terror as history forgetting,” she said. “It would be a devastating signal to recognize or even to glorify old Nazi buildings.” However Knobloch added that she would be open “for any design which is directed to the future.”

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