Dresden Museum of Military History
by Daniel Libeskind


Dresden Museum of Military History by Daniel Libeskind

New York architect Daniel Libeskind has driven a pointed steel and glass shard through the heart of the war museum in Dresden, which reopens on October 14 after a 22-year closure. Update 17/11/11: see a new set of photos in our later story.

Dresden Museum of Military History by Daniel Libeskind

The five-storey triangular wedge extends the existing galleries of the Museum of Military History, making it the largest museum in Germany.

Dresden Museum of Military History by Daniel Libeskind

Above and top: photograph by Bitter Bredt courtesy of Studio Daniel Libeskind

The sharp tip of the structure points eastwards, to the source of firebombs dropped during the war, while a 30 metre-high rooftop viewing platform provides a view towards the city skyline in the west.

Dresden Museum of Military History by Daniel Libeskind

Above: photograph by Bitter Bredt courtesy of Studio Daniel Libeskind

Inside the building, exposed concrete walls separate the new exhibition areas from the historic galleries.

Dresden Museum of Military History by Daniel Libeskind

Lectures and screening will take place inside the building's auditorium.

Dresden Museum of Military History by Daniel Libeskind

Daniel Libeskind also recently completed a media centre for the University of Hong Kong – see our earlier story here and see all our stories about Libeskind here.

Dresden Museum of Military History by Daniel Libeskind

Photography is by Bitter Bredt courtesy of Holzer Kobler Architekturen, apart from where otherwise stated.

Here’s some more information from Libeskind:

“It was not my intention to preserve the museum’s facade and just add an invisible extension in the back. I wanted to create a bold interruption, a fundamental dislocation, to penetrate the historic arsenal and create a new experience. The architecture will engage the public in the deepest issue of how organized violence and how military history and the fate of the city are intertwined.”—Daniel Libeskind

Dresden Museum of Military History by Daniel Libeskind

The redesigned Dresden Museum of Military History is now the official central museum of the German Armed Forces. It will house an exhibition area of roughly 21,000 square feet, making it Germany’s largest museum.

Dresden Museum of Military History by Daniel Libeskind

Since its 1897 founding, the Dresden Museum of Military History has been a Saxon armory and museum, a Nazi museum, a Soviet museum and an East German museum. Today it is the military history museum of a unified and democratic Germany, its location outside the historic center of Dresden having allowed the building to survive the allied bombing campaign at the end of World War II.

Dresden Museum of Military History by Daniel Libeskind

In 1989, unsure how the museum would fit into a newly unified German state, the government decided to shut it down. By 2001 feelings had shifted and an architectural competition was held for an extension that would facilitate a reconsideration of the way we think about war.

Dresden Museum of Military History by Daniel Libeskind

Daniel Libeskind’s winning design boldly interrupts the original building's symmetry. The extension, a massive, five-story 140-ton wedge of glass, concrete and steel, cuts through the 135-year-old former arsenal’s structural order. A 98-foot high viewing platform provides breathtaking views of modern Dresden while pointing in the opposite direction toward the source of the fire-bombs, creating a dramatic space for reflection.

Dresden Museum of Military History by Daniel Libeskind

The new façade’s openness and transparency contrasts with the opacity and rigidity of the existing building. The latter represents the severity of the authoritarian past while the former reflects the openness of the democratic society in which it has been reimagined.

Dresden Museum of Military History by Daniel Libeskind

The interplay between these perspectives forms the character of the new Military History Museum.

Dresden Museum of Military History by Daniel Libeskind

“The dramatic extension is a symbol of the resurrection of Dresden from its ashes. It is about the juxtaposition of tradition and innovation, of the new and the old. Dresden is a city that has been fundamentally altered; the events of the past are not just a footnote; they are central to the transformation of the city today.”- Daniel Libeskind

Dresden Museum of Military History by Daniel Libeskind

Above: photograph by Bitter Bredt courtesy of Studio Daniel Libeskind

1. CHANGING PERSPECTIVE - The MHM offers different perspectives on German military history. The architecture, the new thematic exhibition and the redesigned permanent (chronological) exhibition represent both traditional and new forms of perception and expression. The juxtaposition of tradition and innovation, of old and new interpretations of military history, is the cornerstone of the new approach.

2. CULTURAL HISTORY OF VIOLENCE - The MHM offers visitors a history of the German military. But it goes beyond uniforms and weapons in its investigation state-controlled violence, offering new ways of assessing that history and the culture of violence that gave rise to it.

Dresden Museum of Military History by Daniel Libeskind

Click above for larger image

3. THE CENTRAL THEME IS THE HUMAN BEING - The central theme of the MHM’s architecture and exhibition design is an anthropological consideration of the nature of violence. The museum closely examines the fears, hopes, passions, memories, motivations and instances of courage, rationality and aggression that have precipitated violence and, all too often, war.

4. MUSEUM AS FORUM - In addition to presenting current and historical topics in special exhibitions and events, the MHM will host screenings, lectures and international symposia.

Dresden Museum of Military History by Daniel Libeskind

Click above for larger image

5. A NEW MUSEUM DISTRICT - Once a prosperous and heavily visited area, Dresden’s Albertstodt district, in which the museum is located, , has been deserted for some time. The new MHM will be the catalyst that turns the district into an international destination, a cultural center and a museum district. Made add’l change

  • Carlos G

    I have no doubt that Libeskind was going to shove a triangular wedge onto the building before he ever saw the site or knew the client's program. If the existing building was facing the opposite way, he still woulfd have put his wedge there except he would have made up a completely different story about the wedge pointing directly INTO the way the fire bombs came rather than AWAY from it. It's all the same post-facto nonsense he says about every project he does.

  • Koen

    Military Museum and…Germany….not a very wise combination

  • R.A

    it looks like an alien with the surroundings. I kinda love unique, extraordinary designs that catch attention, but does it really work with such place !

  • Keith LUCAS

    An egotistical act of violent disrespect for order and decorum, justified by a crass reference to the contents of the gallery. Surely, the purpose is not to celebrate violation, but to promote harmony?

    • Justin

      I’m sorry to but in a broad sense the celebration of violation and ego seems to be rather reflective of contemporary American culture.

  • https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000647964617 Pascal Tischler

    no go! destroys that beautiful old building just to be modern? there are much better ways to improve it.

  • Frank

    As usual with star hitect work, the poor galleries look like uncomfortable afterthoughts.

  • bill b

    He sure must hate that sweet old building.

    This is the tantrum of a brutal child.

  • Candace

    It looks like it will be a very nice building once they remove that strange scaffolding in the middle.

  • http://www.amphibianarc.com Nonchi Wang

    Such a dramatic addition! It's great!

  • Manu

    "The sharp tip of the structure points eastwards, to the source of firebombs dropped during the war, while a 30 metre-high rooftop viewing platform provides a view towards the city skyline in the west."

    oddly enough this would be right if it read: "the sharp tip of the structure points towards the city"

    I don't know if it points to where the bombers came from but it definitely points towards where they were dropped.

    I don't like it. I don't like Libeskind either, but then I really like what Hundertwasser did. Yet it does what he claims. It IS a museum about war. Making it look all cosy and nice would fit even less and this particular style of architecture (the original) is seen throughout the city, so it's not like he destroyed something unique.

  • RichBan

    this imposter must be stopped

  • http://www.VictoriaLyonInteriors.com Victoria Lyon

    It's challenging and provocative, and get's us thinking about war, which is a good thing. I think it's gorgeous and has a lively interaction with the existing structure, making the existing structure all the more beautiful too.

  • mirro

    is this some kind of revenge? ..but what intelligent excuse could have the City Council for letting the urban image of Dresden being mutilated in such brutal and disrespectful way, 66 years after those bombardments?

  • ale gaddor

    that’s looks like an instalation,, sad but true it’s a building. Daniel Libeskind’s creativity stopped with the jewish museum in Berlin back in the 90’s. This is an insult.


  • Hans Haagensen

    Is this another – not at subtle attempt by DL to wreck revenge on Germany and its antisemitic past – or is this how he really sees himself as a star architect – walloping in the media glare? He has yet to show that he is a socially conscientious practitioner with an eye on ordinary people and their needs.
    I find it appalling, even if the original Dresden building is not good.
    Sensationalism – ?

  • israel

    I like the intention, but not the execution…

  • Ricky

    Same principle and execution of the Imperial War Museum Manchester that works quite well for its purposes, i.e. to make people reflect about war and the mix of feelings (e.g. fear, anger, anxiety) that comes with it. It does not do much for my visual likes as Manchester does (and it does not have to anyways), but it does for my feelings.

  • http://89dove.blogspot.com Chris Dove

    A few years ago, seeing imagery of the Berlin Jewish Museum was an inspiration for me, which persuaded me on the path to become an architect. Four years later, I'm on my part one year out and the amount of projects that he does that are the same is a complete joke and completely disregards any of the work he's done in the past, I still love the original jewish museum, and the micromegas and basically the Libeskind of the 80s, but anything past that is just hideously repetitive.

    It just begins to merge into one big spikey nightmare…

    same old same old

  • amonbob

    This is FANTASTIC! Like Picasso it’s OLD + NEW = MODERN.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=547359941 Fernando Corrales Mora

    Although the concept of this project expressed by Libeskind has any validity, its formal expression is brutal and insensitive to the context of the building.
    Ultimately, this is a reflection of the lack of humility of the architect, not comfortable with a "simple intervention", expressed in his own words. I was disappointed in this project.

  • Zino

    Hmmm… actually, I love this. The old building is not particularly lovely or distinguished, and the site is bland. The violence of that blade slicing through the Old Order is metaphorically and sculpturally satisfying. Not sure why there’s so much pique in the comments, but I’ll admit that it works for me, almost like the Pei pyramid at the Louvre works as a counterpoint to the old buildings. This museum doesn’t want a ‘respectful’ or tasteful addition. This slamming disruption is absolutely brill.

  • http://www.facebook.com/majumisco Marjorie Jumisco

    Looks just like another Patriartic comment on women…

  • http://www.upworld.com/pauleugeneong Foresight

    Did I just read brutalism, disrespect, violence in the form the DL just did? Isn’t that what war totally depicts? You have unconsciouly just gave him a thumbs up.

  • Van

    Normally I really hate his work, but this example is worryingly brilliant

  • http://treister.org Aloma Treister

    OK, interesting idea. So … how long is this installation up for?

  • http://www.facebook.com/camillebretas Camille Brêtas

    Should be called "War museum"…

  • Paul Rust

    Similar to the ROM in Toronto and the Crystal in Las Vegas this approach just isn’t working from any point of view. How does he get away with this stuff?

  • John Lewis

    Bold & Brilliant!

    It turns a stogy old lump into something dynamic & alive.

    The rest of you pull your heads out of your bum & grow some testicles.

  • Dagmar

    It's a war museum? I thought it was a museum dedicated to Libeskind's ego?

  • Conla

    Daniel Libeskind is like an immature, petulant, screaming child. The only way he can get attention is by being loud and agressive and defacing something. He does not care that he is upsetting others because he is a selfish little brat. Unfortunately Libeskind has managed to convince some people that his childinsh and unrefined ideas and rude behavior is great architecture.

  • Ceasar

    Is it still considered design if you force a meaningless triangular wedge onto every project? I'd say that is a formula because no serious thinking is involved. It is an act of habit, not of design.

  • robertconnscott

    Terrified, at first, I believed this was a twisted joke of a 'starchitect'. However, on learning of the mission of the project, I gained composure. Now I just want to plant some ivy or clingy vines to cover the blade. What a lost opportunity for green architecture…

    • techtonic

      I agree. The steel structure is environmentally irresponsible. 140 tons of steel wasted to create a structure that memorilaises Libeskind's lack of sensitivity to a fine building. (I doubt if Daniel knows the smalest thing about "green" design anyway.)

  • Highway 12

    It is easy to create controversy. It is much harder to create good architecture. This bombastic and hideous addition says more about Daniel Libeskind’s self indulgence and lack of respect for decent architecture than it does about a valid design methodology.

  • Hector

    For Libeskind, one size fits all.
    – Need an art museum extension? Add a misshapen glass wedge.
    – Need a war museum addition? Add a pointy glass wedge.
    – Need a house? Mush a few wedges together.
    – Need a villa? Do a two-second scribble with some shardes and wedges.

    Then he writes more press releases about "world renowned", architect.

  • Sean D.

    Who cares if it is ugly or doesn’t function well? Since when did that matter in architecture? The important thing here is that Daniel Libeskind’s ego was satisfied.

  • Jedward

    The really creative solution would respect the original building and seek to be harmonious and compatible. These concepts are not inconsistent with providing a contemporary solution. Unfortunately Daniel Libeskind is neither creative nor talented. His only capability is in destruction.

  • http://www.facebook.com/odobit Ron Thibodeau

    And now a word from the architect: http://mobile.thestar.com/mobile/NEWS/article/107

  • http://www.facebook.com/odobit Ron Thibodeau

    I'm happy Libeskind decided to preserve the portion of the old facade obscured by his intervention. I like the diaphanous quality of the new element. It seems it could be dismantled without harm to the original structure. I wish this approach was utilized at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.

  • SHP

    The wedge seems an unnecessary move. The detrimental effect on the older building outweighs any supposed values Libeskind assigned to it. And most people won't read it the same way as he did anyway. Most people seem to see Libeskind's design as another eyesore like the ones in Denver and Toronto.

  • Loafer

    The plan shows a cut through the old building. Demo and rebuilding. But the top photo tells us that the new angular volume is applied. The piece sits ON the old building, which appears to slip behind the facade of the new construction. God is in the details.

    But the sense of applied form flies in the face of the concept description. However, I do like the handrails.

  • helpyourself001

    I just saw this thing daniel liebeskind 'designed' in Dresden and have truly never been so depressed by a published piece of building in my life.

    The man is a disgrace, a shamefull, sham, vapid, vacuous, charlatan and should be placed in a catapult and aimed at one of the jaunty corners of his truly stupid stupid stupid buildings.

    As if Dresden hadn't borne witness to enough violence in its history.

  • benjo765

    Well it certainly makes a fairly unremarkable neoclassical structure pretty distinctive, I'll give it that much.

  • Damar

    First of all the execution is seriously flawed. The wedge does not penetrate the old building; it is applied over the facade. Secondly, the idea was stupid to begin with. I’m glad I didn’t waste six years of my life working on such a superficial brutal and ridiculous project.

  • Kai

    I think it is PRECISELY because Libeskind’s work is so intellectually barren that he makes up all that confused, convoluted explanations to try and seem profound. He didn’t fool me though. How about you?

  • Slava

    All the frustrated architects on this thread should ask themselves why Libeskind is one of the 3 or 4 most well-known and respected architects by the GENERAL PUBLIC. Maybe because he doesn't just build another boring box with a few frivolous details like you do but builds exciting new forms with emotional and symbolic content. You hate him because not only is he the most radical builder out there but also one of the most popular among non-architects, who otherwise barely notice the tedious boxes you design for them!

    • R Kravis

      Libeskind's work has "emotional and symbolic content"? Really? Sounds like you bought into Libeskind's line of bull. Maybe you'd like to explain how these emotions and symbols are manifested in the forms of this work. My slice of cheescake cas a wedge shape too. Does that cake symbolize the past and future of Dresden too?

  • Val

    In one word: Brave.

    I don't get those comments about "doing what he's been doing for the last 15 years"… I mean that's his work, those are the influences he's had and that is the symbolism he likes to express… and I love it. I think he's making a true statement of how devastating war can be; I can see no reason for being passive when designing this kind of buildings… was he supposed to build the same "respectful" wooden structure every architect has built in every single restoration for the last 50 years? was he supposed to keep silent, absent, inert? are you saying that every time an architect truly connects with the core meaning of the building it's because he wants to become a superstar?

    I don't get you people.

    • KFD

      Yes. Libeskind should be silent, absent and inert. It's better that way for everyone if he keeps his mouth shut and his pretentious ideas to himself.

      I promise that when you grow up and actually learn something about architecture you will be embarrassed that you ever addmitted you liked Libeskind. Trust me on this.

  • Hadiya

    Another sham and mockery from Libeskind. The front of the wedge is just stuck onto the old facade. There is no "penetration", no "slicing through the building". The clown couldn't even figure out how to follow through on his own idea. So the gesture is undermined and becomes meaningless, mute. It speaks no truth, but only amplifies falsity of a very dumb idea. This is why Daniel Libeskind is the laughingstock of the architectural profession.

  • Sylvia Samorai

    Easily the worst building of 2011. Libeskind's capacity for unbridled pretension, blatent egotism and hubris and unneccessary exess is – thankfully – unmatched. I guess every other architect has more sense and ability.

  • Jane Salmon

    Yes. another over-rated lemon by Daniel Libeskind, the world's worst architect of all time.

  • mcmlxix

    One thing is quite certain. Hadid didn't design this.