Stirling's Muses Part II

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From: Stirling's Inheritance To: Stirling's Legacy Re: Stirling's Muses


capsulized journey through "space and time"

At once continuing and dominating the public space, the portico represents the stoas of democratic Greece and the cultured public life they fostered. The real wall of the Museum cuts short the flow of space and replaces the antique colonnade with a screen: a double row of murals representing both in superimposed composition and theme the two-story gallery spaces behind. Depicting the progress of the arts in didactic sequence, they prepare the visitor and replicate the innovative chronological ordering of the collection within. The axis of entry is established by an interruption in the real wall, which parts to display the stepped pyramidal mass of the staircase, at once a highly sophisticated spatial composition and an essay in the primitive origin of vaulted form. The entrance to the galleries thus leads the museum visitor through evolutionary architectural time, from the pure trabeation of the stoa to the rotunda unexpectedly hidden at the building's core via the piled cantilevered blocks of the staircase, a representation of a vault coming into being. The route not only engages the history of architecture, but encompasses the experiential levels of man's relationship to history and place required for a heightened consciousness. As seen in the continuous narrative of the Sammlung view of the staircase, the visitors, having penetrated the screens of columns and mural and traversed the tomblike hollow of the stairs, begin their ascent under cover, and reemerge on the exposed upper landing -- itself a panoramic viewing platform -- newly ennobled by the lessons of architecture. Peering back obliquely at the royal palace and the panorama of Schinkel's other Berlin monuments, they are momentarily confronted with their own position in a political and urban whole. . . .

Schinkel telescoped time and space in the Altes Museum, organizing them deliberately into screens of typological allusion and material representation, constantly directing the visitor to the higher purpose and elevating his consciousness.

Hèléne Lipstadt and Barry Bergdoll, "Architecture as Alchemy" in Progressive Architecture, October, 1981, pp. 72-74.



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