The Staatsgalerie Stuttgart consists of three buildings that reflect different notions of the function of museum architecture.
The oldest part, now referred to as the Alte Staatsgalerie, was opened in 1843 as the city's museum of visual arts. The architect was Gottlob Georg von Barth, an Oberbaurat or senior advisor on building and construction in the Ministry of Finance of the Kingdom of Württemberg. In addition to art collections, the classicistic, three-wing building was also home to the Royal Art Academy. In the period from 1881 to 1888, the building was enlarged with two rear wings in accordance with plans drawn up by Albert von Bok.
In 1984, the 19th century structure (the interior of which had been significantly altered as a result of damage in World War II and rebuilding in the 1950s) was strikingly enhanced by James Stirling's major addition: the »Neue Staatsgalerie«. While the Neue Staatsgalerie continues to reflect the three-wing design of the Alte Staatsgalerie, it also makes the museum itself an object of aesthetic contemplation. Many aspects of the new building pay homage to historical structures from antiquity to classic modernism, and particular emphasis is given to elements of classic museum architecture such as the rotunda, gables, and entableture. Together, they define the museum as a place that ambiguously and, at times, ironically reflects its own history and significance.
The third element in the ensemble is the new addition to the Alte Staatsgalerie designed by the Basle architects Winfrid & Katharina Steib. The five-story edifice, completed in September 2002, forms a cohesive unit with Albert von Bok’s additions and includes an annex for the presentation of works on paper. The other floors are the new home of the Department of Prints, Drawings and Photographs. With their simple design, devoted to utility and spatial clarity, the architects define the museum as a place wholly subordinated to supporting the exhibition of various forms and genres of art.