Now the official museum of the German Armed Forces, the Dresden Museum of Military History was once shut down by a German government uncertain of how the institution would fit into a newly unified German state. Studio Libeskind was selected as design architect for an extension in 2001, when an architectural competition was held.
The winning design boldly interrupts the original building’s classical symmetry. The extension, a massive, five-story 14,500-ton wedge of glass, concrete, and steel, cuts into and through the former arsenal’s classical order. An 82-foot high viewing platform (the highest point of the wedge is at 98 feet) provides breathtaking views of modern Dresden, while pointing towards the triangulation of the area where the fire bombing began in Dresden, creating a space for reflection.
The new façade’s openness and transparency is intended to contrast with the opacity and rigidity of the existing building. The latter represents the severity of the authoritarian past, while the former reflects the transparency of the military in a democratic society. The interplay between these perspectives forms the character of the new Military History Museum
Inside, in the original, columned part of the building, Germany’s military history is presented in a horizontal, chronological order. The wedge cuts through this horizontal chronology between 1914 -1945, creating a clear, architectural distinction. New exhibition areas focus on the societal forces and human impulses that give birth to war and violence.
“This is architecture that is appropriate for its function, combining geometric rigor with clear commentary. While the museum is a streetcar’s ride from the center, it shows a different Dresden apart from the revived, touristic old town. When Libeskind conceived the expansion a decade ago, he was at a creative peak. It shows. In this context, with this weight of history, this military museum is a force for good.” –Hugh Pearman, Architectural Record (January 2012)
“…marvel at Daniel Libeskind’s transformation of the Military History Museum…” 36 Hours in Dresden, Germany, New York Times (March 2012)
2013 – European Museum Academy Prize, 2012 – International Property Awards Europe – Best Public Service Architecture