German arsenal gets SDL treatment

Niki May Young
Friday 10 Oct 2008

Dresden Military History Museum tops out

In Dresden, Germany, an arsenal building is undergoing a dramatic transformation as Studio Daniel Libeskind (SDL) have designed its morphosis into a Military History Museum. The museum has celebrated its topping out (October 6) and is set to open in 2010 housing an exhibition area amounting to around 20,000 sq m, becoming Dresden’s largest museum.

The design of the Military History Museum features an architectural incision into the old German arsenal building. This vast wedge-shaped structure made of concrete, steel and glass projects from the old Neo-Classical building, pointing like an arrow towards the old city center. SDL designed the new extension by cutting a wedge through the structural order of the arsenal, giving the museum a place for reflection about organized violence. This wedge creates an objective view to the continuity of military conflicts and opens up vistas to central anthropological questioning.

The new façade is being conceived against the background of the existing arsenal building, in response and contrast to it. The openness and transparency of the new façade stands against the opacity and solidity of the old one. As one represents the severity of the authoritarian past in which it was built, the other reflects the openness of a democratic society and the changed role of its military. “It is a dialogue between old and new,” said the architect, referring to this inherent conflict in the building. This correlation corresponds to the juxtaposition of new and old in the building’s interior: the rigid column grid of the old arsenal is contrasted with a new column free space.

The new extension gives a fundamental re-orientation to the existing building. It opens up the view to the historical center of Dresden and soars above the roof of the existing building, showing the modernization to the outside world while offering visitors the opportunity to experience the opening to the city.

Viktorija Maksimo

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