John Pawson transforms Berlin bunker into very safe art museum

A private art gallery has been inserted into a capacious wartime bunker far beneath the streets of Berlin’s central Kreuzberg district.

The creation of this 6,350 square metre gallery was carried out by British architect John Pawson, best known for his ultra-minimalist homes. The same stripped aesthetic is on show here, although in a more fortified context.

The walls are 2m thick reinforced concrete, whereas the roof measures 3.3m and there are 1.6m columns to add to the structural strength, as if it were needed.

What all of this military engineering was protecting was part of Berlin’s former telecoms system. What it is defending now is the art collection of art collector Désiré Feuerle. This consists of an eclectic mix of contemporary art from the likes of Nobuyoshi Araki, Adam Fuss and Anish Kapoor, together with imperial Chinese furniture and 7th-13th century Southeast Asian sculpture.

The bunker also contains a "flooded lake room with the enclosed space dedicated to the 2,000 year old imperial ritual of incense burning".

Pawson said: "Intervention has been purposefully kept to a minimum, respectful always of the ways in which nature, man and the passage of time have made their marks on the fabric of the buildings.

"Rather than grand gestures, the focus of the effort has fallen on the subtle calibration of key thresholds, on the spatial narrative through the galleries, on the quality of the light and on specific, quietly charged sensory encounters."

The public can visit the Feuerle Collection by appointment – you can book here.

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