To live in exile, whether in the 1930s or today, is to lead a profoundly uncertain existence suspended between one’s homeland and someplace else, between languages, between identities, between lives, and between jurisdictions. Probing the experience of being “in between” is fundamental to both the Exilmuseum’s storytelling and the architecture that supports it.

Between Histories

The Exilmuseum looks to the present and future while never forgetting the past. The portal ruin found on the site today remains the only visible trace of Anhalter Bahnhof, a symbol of deportation and destruction under the Nazi regime. Previously isolated from its spatial and historical context, the fragment is reconnected to the building that once stood behind it. The museum engages the portal ruin as part of its front façade, without direct contact or overlap, preserving the portal’s symbolic importance. The Foyer, with its historic traces,acts as the museum’s central atrium, connecting all major destinations of the building. A glass version of the main stair is positioned in the same location and configuration as the original—a ghost of the station’s original grand stair, leading visitors to the galleries. Brick rubble, reclaimed from the foundation excavation, is crushed to make the Foyer’s paving and pulverized into warmly hued rammed earth walls at the gallery level.

Between Walls

The galleries are light- and sound-controlled, flexible environments that support an ever-evolving, media-rich curatorial vision. The mostly solid program blocks are encased within a light-filled outer box, defined by areas of public gathering and circulation. The galleries are separated by “in-between” spaces, voids sliced through the building that act as momentary light and sound reprieves between the curated media-rich spaces. Nestled between thick gallery walls are micro-libraries of self-published books for the public to discover.


The organizational logic of the building is inscribed in the landscape: the light-filled slices of the “in-between” extend into the forecourt as pathways between zones of vegetation and hardscape. A plaza of stabilized gravel and paving links the museum entrance to the S-bahn station. Adjacent to the plaza is a sunken area for public gatherings, dubbed “The Forum.” Open spaces abutting the portal ruin to the East are recolonized by ruderal plants, flowers and shrubs to create a more wild and self-sustaining landscape. To engage the public in a broader conversation of exile outside the museum walls, a landscape of “displaced roots” hosts non-native plants and trees exiled by climate change. To the west, a bosque of trees displaced from around the world provides shade for the café’s outdoor seating, while a “Free Market” adjoining the west edge of the football pitch encourages the public to continue south to explore the string of linear parks along the former rail lines.

Project information
Size (GSF)         45000
PartnersElizabeth Diller,Charles Renfro,Benjamin Gilmartin,and Ricardo Scofidio
Project LeaderCharles Curran
TeamJedidiah Lau,Michael Robitz,Quy Le,Shiwoo Yu,Julie Niu,Chris Andreacola,Sean Gallagher,and James McNally
External credits
HG MerzLocal Architect
Knippers HelbigStructural Engineering and Facade Consultants
Gross MaxLandscape
Pablo FrankenbergAdvisor