State Ethnological Museum and Museum of Asian Art at the Humboldt Forum

Located in the reconstructed Berlin Palace on Berlin’s Museum Island, the newly opened Humboldt Forum is envisioned as an international forum of art, culture, and science.


Ralph Appelbaum Associates

Practice Area


Humboldt Forum

The Challenge

The primary challenge for a project of this scale was the sheer number of people involved in the processes and decision making. Over the long timeframe of the project, the inevitable change of personnel also led to shifts in thinking, which in turn required new design. The project demanded a high level of flexibility and endurance. Planning such a large exhibition with a wide range of varied perspectives required a strategic balance of individualized solutions tailor-made to the content and the requirements of the collection, in addition to a high level of underlying standardization for cost and operational efficiency.

Project Vision

The main objectives of the client were to create a dynamic and impactful presentation of non- European cultural heritage, in a manner that allows for flexibility and change as new research and knowledge emerges from ongoing intercultural exchanges. The greatest opportunities this project provided were to be able look at historic collections of ethnography and art in new ways, confronting the past and leveraging heritage assets for the future to bringing context and meaning and relevance for our contemporary worldviews.

Alexander Schippel

Alexander Schippel

Design + Execution

Within the museum’s collections, an extremely wide range of materials and art objects (permanent/large and small) required a deep understanding of their aesthetics and their conservation requirements. Discussions with curators allowed for a design that protects and highlights the collections with built-in flexibility to be able to frequently change the presentation of objects.

In addition to the thematic modules, we designed a series of recurring elements that provide structure and common reference points. These meeting points are spaces where groups can convene and where daily programming like small performances and informal talks can take place. In addition, special areas are reserved for temporary interventions by contemporary artists and guest curators.

Alexander Schippel

Alexander Schippel

Alexander Schippel

Alexander Schippel

Project Details
The display of the artifacts in this exhibit are very elegant and sophisticated. You can see the care that was shown to highlight specific elements in each artifact.
Juror 1
I loved this entry. The design is fresh and contemporary and displays each of the fascinating pieces in clean casework so each artifact is treated with equal importance.
Juror 2
Design Team

Tim Ventimiglia (project director)
Walter Froetscher (project deputy director)
Philipp Teufel (project deputy director)
Christian Geisser (section project manager / senior designer)
Constanze Hager (section project manager / senior designer)
Sebastian Scheller (section project manager / senior designer)
Wenke Merkel (section project manager / senior designer)
Berit Shepard (section project manager / senior designer)
Anita Walter (section project manager / senior designer)
Frank Fuhs (cost controller)
Vanessa Offen (interpretive planner)
Claudia Woschke (content coordinator)
Kristin Braun (graphics and media designer)
Thomas Meyer (graphics and media designer)
Kerstin Neumann-Teufel, (graphic designer)
Monika Malsy (graphic designer)
Harry Hauck (artifact mount designer)
Justin Allen, Serena Bartalucci, Markus Blösl, Anna F Castillo, Ning-Yu Chang, Txell Cisa, Lucille Cros, Eva Csonka, Aleksandra Duczmal, Andrea Perez Fu, Inga Gabriel, Antje Heymann, Ilana Hofmann, Teresa Huber, Andrea Jacob, Ryla Jakelsky, Jennnifer Klähn, Karin Knott, Camille Ladan, Rachel Martin, Marta Masternak, Sara Omassi, Maria C. Orizzonte, Umberto Pinoni, Vicky Regehr, Fiete Rohde, Wided Rouin, Marc Llinares Ruiz, Paulina Samardakiewicz, Kamila Sarnecka, Barbara Véve, Katharina Vraga, Franziska Waldemer (exhibition designers)
Scott Shepard (visualizations)
Reinhart Dittmann (controller)
Thierry Debaille (administration)


Franco Stella Architekten, Hilmer Sattler & Albrecht Architekten, Gerkan Marg and Partners, Jun Ura, Wang Shu, Amateur Architecture Studio, Architekturbüro Manfred Selle (architects)
Lichtvision Design GmbH, Ulrike Link Lichtplanung (lighting design)
Müller-BBM (acoustics and media systems design),
INNIUS D GmbH (electrical planning)
Obermeyer Planen + Beraten GmbH (security systems)
Wetzel & von Seht (tragwerksplanung, structural engineer)
BPK Brandschutzplanung Klingsch GmbH (fire protection)
Rau Raumkonzepte (accessibility)
Institut für Luft und Kältetechnik gemeinnützige Gesellschaft mbH (air conditioning)
Lichtvision Design GmbH
Holzer Kobler mit Gourdin & Müller
Niemann + Weineck I gewerkdesign
Alexander Gorlizki
Art+Com Studios
Vitrinen- und Glasbau REIER GmbH
Museumstechnik Berlin
Vienna Art Handling

Photo Credits

Alexander Schippel

Open Date

September 2021