David Chipperfield Sets a New Stage for Mies van der Rohe’s Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin | The Slowdown - Culture, Nature, Future
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The Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin
Courtesy David Chipperfield Architects

When architect Mies van der Rohe first used the now infamous—and often riffed-on—phrase “Less is more,” it was in reference to a factory in Berlin in the early 1900s. The story goes that there was very little room for experimental or creative design for the utilitarian building that he was renovating, and his mentor at the time advised that doing less might be the answer. Regardless of how the phrase came about, the idea is visible across van der Rohe’s work—as well as in his influence on contemporary architects.

Case in point: On the occasion of this month’s reopening of Berlin’s Neue Nationalgalerie (on August 22, after six years of renovation), originally designed by van der Rohe in 1968, British architect David Chipperfield describes how his team took up this mantra in their own approach to the renovation. The project was focused on getting the building up to contemporary technical standards while maintaining as much of the building’s original fabric as possible—and “as much Mies,” as the firm was directed. David Chipperfield Architects made important improvements of their own, nonetheless: The building is now operating at standards that will reduce energy consumption and has accessible, barrier-free entry for the first time.

As Chipperfield puts it, “Taking apart a building of such unquestionable authority has been a strange experience but a privilege. Our work was surgical in nature, addressing technical issues to protect this vision. Certainly, carrying out such a task in a building that leaves no place to hide is daunting, but we hope to have returned this beloved patient seemingly untouched except for it running more smoothly.”

The museum reopens with an exhibition of Alexander Calder sculptures and mobiles, specifically conceptualized to enter into dialogue with van der Rohe’s glass hall in the building; a solo exhibition of sculptural and film works by the artist Rosa Barba; and “The Art of Society,” featuring works from the Nationalgalerie collection that speak to connections between art and social progress—a collection that, much like the essentialist building it’s housed in, remains wholly contemporary.

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MoMA curator Paola Antonelli

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Black and white illustration of a forest on a cliff viewed from above

States across the U.S. may be entering Phase 2 of post-lockdown reopenings, but short of a vaccine, public health expertQuarantine Coloring Book, uploading a new free, downloadable image by a different illustrator each day. The project exploded overnight, with thoAccording to research, coloring can have a similar effect on our minds as meditation, helping to ease anxiety, fears, and restless thoughts—i

Various people encased in glass bubbles stand on the beach near the ocean

As museums around the world (or, most of them, anyway) remain closed, and a once-global calendar of openings and festiva@covidartmuseum—started on Instagram by three Barcelona-based art directors, Emma Calvo, Irene Llorca, and Jose Guerrero—has become som

A large crowd protesting for Black Lives Matter in New York City.

For the better part of the past decade, Cindy Trinh has been documenting social justice movements around New York City with her ongoing Activist NYC project. Here, Trinh, a photographer with a background in law, shares her observations on the current Black Lives Matte

Two copies of Offscreen magazine featuring a woman with black glasses on the front cover.

Melbourne-based Kai Brach, a former web designer and the publisher/editor of Offscreen, an independent print magazine about technology, and Dense Discovery, a weekly newsletter about productivity and inspiration, shares his current media diet with us—and why he firmly believ

An illustration from Night Sky featuring the Virgo constellation.

The limbo of the pandemic looms on, and as our feeds fill up with more hot takes and navel-gazing observations about lifNight Sky is the Google Maps of stargazing apps, offering a planetarium-like experience in the palm of your hand, with features t

A black and white illustration of plants by Katie Holten.

At a time when the constant stream of updates on the Covid-19 crisis feels all-consuming, we’re finding solace in media Emergence Magazine, which covers a wide range of topics focused around ecology, culture, and spirituality. A project of the Kalliopeia FouEmergence offers a mix of op-eds, essays, photo essays, and multimedia stories that bring the vibe and holistic kind of thinking Whole Earth Catalog into the present day.

Tatiana Schlossberg smiling next to the front cover of Inconspicuous Consumption.

Journalist Tatiana Schlossberg, the author of the book Inconspicuous Consumption: The Environmental Impact You Don’t Know You Have, reports on climate and environment issues shaping our planet today, from consumer habits and industry practices to theEp. 18 of At a Distance.)

Azzedina Alaïa's Taking Time on a white desk.

Curator and critic Donatien Grau—who was on our At a Distance podcast last week—talks with us here about the new book he produced in collaboration with the late couturier Azzedine Alaïa, Taking Time (Rizzoli), a series of wide-ranging conversations on art, time, and creativity. Among the visionary voices featured—most of whom w

A submersible robot traveling below the Thwaites Glacier.

For several years now, climate scientists have been studying “grounding lines”—the point at which a large glacier is buovideo footage of the grounding zone of the Thwaites Glacier, part of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, where it’s steadily leaking freshwater into the ocean. We now have, in other wor

A set of five New York Times Magazines fanned out across a white table.

“The truth of the interaction is the thing that you're trying to get across,” journalist David Marchese, columnist of The New York Times Magazine’s Talk column, says of the craft of interviewing. Known for his deft, often revealing longform interviews with well-known cultural fiWhoopi Goldberg to Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, Marchese maintains a running log of some 500 folks, in his own estimation, that he’d like to one day add to that list.New York magazine, famously captured an 85-year-old Quincy Jones calling Harvey Weinstein “a jive motherfucker,” elsewhere referring to Trump as “limited me

A screenshot from House Party featuring some of The Slowdown team.

As cities across the United States continue to be locked down amidst the novel coronavirus, with all of us self-quarantiHouseparty, a new video-chat app that our friend the fashion stylist Kate Young tipped us off to. Unlike Zoom or Google Hangouts, it’s designed for more serendipitous and casual mingling among friendactual parties, which suddenly feel further away than ever. The app, which has gone viral in these past few weeks of social di

A close-up photo of the sun's golden surface.

After NASA’s Apollo 8 orbited the moon in 1968, its crew brought back with them the most stunning of photo souvenirs. “EWhole Earth Catalog and forever imprinted in the public mind. As Anders later said, “We set out to explore the moon and instead discovered

A drawing of a woman looking into a mirror near a window.

“The news has gotten even faster, and more and more I find myself reading headlines, and then opinions about the headlinEsquire, where he worked on features and fiction for more than a decade. “It feels like you can never actually catch up, or eveThe Chronicles of Now, which commissions authors to produce short pieces of fiction about a timely news topic worth digesting further. Roxane

Willi Smith looking into the camera, his hand on a model with a red bathing suit, facing away.

“I don’t design clothes for the Queen, but for the people who wave at her as she goes by,” the late designer Willi Smith“Willi Smith: Street Couture,” curated by Alexandra Cunningham Cameron, opens next week (and will be on view through Oct. 25) at the Cooper Hewitt, SmKim Hastreiter.

Shantell Martin's book, Wonder.

With a chunky marker in hand, artist and illustrator Shantell Martin is widely known for the distinctive black-and-white line drawings she creates in meditative, stream-of-consciousness grLines (Heni Publishing)—with texts from Katharine Stout and Hans Ulrich Obrist—was more of an undertaking than she’d imagined. While the book’sthe @slowdown.tv Instagram—seeing her works printed and bound offers a satisfying second.

A blue, brown, and translucent sculpture by Neri Oxman.

As the founder and director of MIT’s Mediated Matter group, the Israeli-American designer and futurist Neri Oxman is pioEp. 16 of our Time Sensitive podcast, “The Biological Age is an age where we have disassociated ourselves from physical materials as the single defining ele

A map of the world with red dots and forms drawn over it.

Dutch architect, urbanist, and theorist Rem Koolhaas is the rare figure whose outsize influence is evidenced in cities a“Countryside, The Future” (on view from Feb. 20–Aug. 14) would seem to be a departure from the architect’s career-long focus on cities, an irony

A painting of a woman composed of blocks of color.

Explorations of black culture and identity in America figure prominently in the work of artist Derrick Adams, whose dive“Transformers,” at Luxembourg & Dayan’s London gallery (on view through April 4), Adams shares new large-scale works from his “Beauty W,” at Frieze Los Angeles next weekend, and his solo exhibition “Buoyant” opens March 7 at the Hudson River Museum in New York. Adams’s work seems to be everywhere these days—we even noticed ona recent New York Times portrait taken at Roc Nation’s Los Angeles offices.

Illustrations of various Los Angeles landmark buildings.

What Los Angeles lacks in density, it delivers in latitude: miles of freeway and a stunning array of neighborhoods, eachPurple editor-at-large Emilien Crespo, a veritable bon vivant, French expat, and Angeleno of more than 10 years. “It’s a toughSoul of Los Angeles (Jonglez Publishing), Crespo shares a list of 30 adventures (chosen from 1,000) for locals and visitors alike in his adLos Angeles Times Pulitzer Prize–winning food critic, and Sqirl’s Jessica Koslow. There’s even a gem to be found in the tourist trap of Hollywood, at the historic Musso and Frank’s Gr

A building designed by MASS Design Group.

“Architecture is not agnostic about ethics,” writes Michael Murphy, founding principal and executive director of MASS Design Group. “As with art, the political is inherent in architectural choices. Architecture points forward, it must consider the enJustice Is Beauty (Monacelli Press), gathers work from its first 10 years of practice, taking stock of the progressive and public-facing

Three people underneath an Olafur Elaisson video installation.

A fascination with science and nature defines the many avenues of creative work by Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Elaiss“Symbiotic Seeing,” on view through March 22 at Kunsthaus Zurich, Eliasson once again urges us to be aware of our place in the world, highl