The architects Martin Gropius and Heino Schmieden originally designed the building in the Renaissance style to house an arts and crafts museum. It was ceremoniously opened in 1881. The Museum of Prehistory and Early History and the East Asian Art Collection moved into the building after the First World War, while the arts and crafts collection was transferred to the City Palace (Stadtschloss). The Gropius-Bau was severely damaged in 1945 during the last weeks of World War II. It wasn’t until 1966 that it was classified as a historical monument. Reconstruction began in 1978 under the direction of the architects Winnetou Kampmann and Ute Weström. The house was named after Martin Gropius, a great uncle of Walter Gropius, who had strongly urged that the museum should be rebuilt.
Since its meticulous restoration in the 1970s the Martin-Gropius-Bau has become one of the most famous and most beautiful exhibition halls in Germany. Many international exhibitions have since found a fitting venue here and attracted many millions of visitors.
The house was further restored in 1999/2000 with funding from the Federal Government. Air-conditioning was installed and the north entrance was redesigned as the main entrance. The architectural office of Hilmer & Sattler & Albrecht was in charge of reconstructing the Martin-Gropius-Bau.