The Gropius Bau is one of the most important exhibition halls in Europe. Located in the centre of Berlin, the Gropius Bau presents widely acclaimed exhibitions of contemporary and modern art, as well as performances, workshops, discourse and film screenings. Its programme focuses on opening up the institution, making it a space for artistic creation, community and dialogue.
This approach draws on the history of the Gropius Bau. The neo-Renaissance building at Niederkirchnerstraße 7 opened its doors in 1881 as a museum and school of decorative arts with numerous studios and workshops. Artistic work, mutual learning and the broadening of perspectives are now once again firmly enshrined in the building as we invite artists to move into spaces in the Gropius Bau for a year-long residency, and collaborate with our neighbours and local initiatives.
Accessible free of charge, the atrium is at the heart of the exhibition hall. It regularly hosts performances and transdisciplinary projects that converse with the impressive surrounding architecture. The public can wrap up their visit at the Gropius Bau’s restaurant Beba, the bookshop or the Gropius Hain, which is located on the west side of the building. The Gropius Bau has been part of the Berliner Festspiele since 2001.
About the building
For the programme of the Gropius Bau, the history and location of the building and its senstive restoration form a central starting point for critical reflection. Designed by architects Martin Gropius and Heino Schmieden as a Museum and School of Decorative Arts, the building opened to the public in 1881. In its dual function as an educational institution and museum, it housed classrooms and studios as well as collections of European crafts and an art library. The centrepiece of the exhibition hall was and remains the atrium, which, slightly lowered, extends outward in all four cardinal directions.
During the Second World War the building was badly damaged during air raids on Berlin. The roof and collection holdings in the basement were reduced to ashes; the northern facade and upper floors were almost completely destroyed. The ruins were left to decay until the 1960s, when the planned demolition was averted by the great nephew of its creator, architect and Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius. In 1966, the building was granted protected status under the name Martin-Gropius-Bau, before reconstruction work began in 1978 under architects Winnetou Kampmann and Ute Weström. The aim was to preserve the historical substance and traces of history as well as meet the demands of a modern exhibition venue. At the Gropius Bau today reconstructed mosaics, reliefs and majolica can be found alongside intentionally exposed gaps that attest to the building’s destruction. For the reopening the entrance had to be relocated to the south side given the building’s then proximity to the Berlin Wall; today’s main entrance on Niederkirchnerstraße was not reopened until 1999.