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Architecture and new Urban Development Projects in Berlin
Architecture and Urban Planning before and after the Fall of the Wall
Berlin, February 2015 When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, there were fundamental
changes to all aspects of life in Berlin, and not just to its politics. The careful
reconstruction of Berlin's city centre after decades of war and division hearkened back to
the vernacular Berlin style while establishing the architectural pattern for the new Berlin.
Buildings sprung up across inner-city wastelands in the traditional block structure, but
with contemporary architectural design. In other places, the existing structures,
including industrial buildings, have been converted to other uses. In the city's many
spaces left empty after reunification and the breaking down of the Berlin Wall, new
projects for both rebuilding former structures once lost and making new additions to the
cityscape are still underway.
Current Construction and Urban Development Projects in Berlin
Berlin City Palace/Humboldt Forum
It is perhaps the most famous of the reconstruction projects in Berlin, if for no other
reason than its location in heart of the city centre. The former city palace of the Prussian
and later German royal family is being rebuilt as the Humboldt Forum. The palace was
torn down, despite minimal war damage, in 1950 and replaced with the Palast der
Republik, home to the East German parliament and centre of cultural life in the capital of
the German Democratic Republic. The Communist-era structure was torn down in 2006
in what remains a controversial decision. The reconstruction of the royal palace has
been designed by architect Francesco Stella with three historicised and one modern
façade. The new facility will be dubbed the Humboldt Forum and be home to the city's
non-European collections, a library and parts of Humboldt University. It is expected to be
completed by 2019.
The Humboldtbox adjacent to the site provides an overview of the planned exhibits that
will be housed in the Humboldt Forum, progress on the reconstruction, the new
Museumsinsel U-Bahn station, as well as panoramic views of Friedrichstadt and Unter
den Linden.
Europa-City near Berlin Central Station
The area around Heidestraße to the north of the recently build Berlin Hauptbahnhof
(Central Station) was part of a "no man's land" surrounded by the Berlin Wall for
decades. Now the city's largest construction project is underway at the site, as detailed
in the "Berlin Heidestraße Master Plan". An entirely new neighbourhood will arise on the
40-hectare site, with entirely new infrastructure and buildings, including leafy squares,
an S-Bahn station, a bridge across the Spandau Canal, and other roads. The space is in a
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high-value area, adjacent to the Hamburger Bahnhof Museum and other galleries will
provide residential, office, retail, commercial and recreational space, all being built in a
green manner. Total Tower, the new corporate headquarters of Total, and 50 Hertz
already create an architectural statement at the gate to the future neighbourhood.
German Intelligence Headquarters on Chausseestraße and the Surrounding
Across the Spandau Canal from the Heidestraße neighbourhood is another new
neighbourhood currently under construction: at the centre of the fenced-in fenced
construction site is the new headquarters building for the Federal Intelligence Service
(BND) that will be opening along the former border crossing at Chausseestraße in 2016
to provide space for 4,000 employees. The adjacent Südpanke green space is currently
being created as the Panke River and its banks are left to go back to their natural state.
In the area around the BND headquarters near the Schwartzkopffstraße U-Bahn station,
many townhouses are under currently under construction and older ones redeveloped
into new homes on Habersaathstraße and Scharnhorststrasse. These new buildings
along the former course of the Berlin Wall are allowing the districts of Mitte and
Wedding, once cut off from each other, to begin to grow back together.
Holzmarkt Site – New Creative Neighbourhood on the Spree
Where the Berlin Wall once separated East and West right along the banks of the Spree,
the once-scarred embankment between Kreuzberg, Friedrichshain and Mitte is
becoming a new Berlin showcase for innovative repurposing of urban space. Until 2010,
this area had been home to legendary Berlin techno club Bar 25. A newly formed
cooperative plans to build a versatile "village" with structures housing living and working
spaces, studios for artists, creative types and craftsman, trade, clubs, cultural sites, a
restaurant, a new hotel and the Eckwerk start-up technology centre. Möhrchenpark is
located in this new neighbourhood and is taking up the trend to create shared urban
gardening spaces for use by residents and the public. The area, which was the subject of
a campaign led by "Mediaspree für alle", will also include a publicly accessible path along
the former Berlin Wall.
Conversion of the RAW Site in Friedrichshain – with New Swimming Pool
The site of the former Reichsbahnausbesserungswerks (RAW: Imperial Rail Repair Shop)
between Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg has become a vibrant urban centre since 1999.
With its various cultural and sports facilities, a cinema, clubs and concert halls, flea
markets, street-food markets, galleries, dining establishments and street art on the
walls, it is a centre for alternative culture. 2015 will see a new outdoor garden called
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Haubentaucher open here, featuring a large outdoor pool, bars, dance floors, as well as
other bars, beer gardens and party venues. The outdoor pool/lounge bar concept will
offer space for up to 1,000 guests to swim, relax and party.;
Park and Building Projects at Gleisdreieck
A unique and versatile park in an urban setting has taken root along a narrow 2 km long
strip between the Mendelssohn-Bartholdy-Park and Yorckstraße stations covering 31.5
hectares and enjoying views of Potsdamer Platz. The park on what was once abandoned
rail yards now houses a cycling path running from the city centre to the south, sports
facilities, playgrounds, allotments, skateboard parks, cafés and several new residential
areas, such as the one along Flottwellstraße. The three parts of the park (west, east and
the "bottleneck") combine what had previously been the separated districts of
Kreuzberg, Tiergarten and Schöneberg and provides recreational opportunities for
residents. Its historic use as part of the city's rail yards is still evident, as the ICE track
passes through here on its way to the central station and U-Bahn lines U1 and U2 still
cross through here every five minutes. The plan is to extend the S-Bahn from Potsdamer
Platz to Südkreuz and build new commercial buildings near the Mendelssohn BartholdyPark U-Bahn station.
Swimming in the Spree on Museum Island
An urban dream might become reality by 2018 as a new place to swim opens between
the Museum Island and the new Humboldt Forum. Guests would be able to take a swim
in the Spree itself as 750 m of the Spree Canal becomes one of the world's largest, freely
accessible swimming pools. The upper portion of the 1.6 canal would be used to clean
the river water naturally with a natural wetlands and reed pool. Verein Flussbad Berlin
e.V. would like to make this dream come true and turn this area into another attraction
unique to Berlin.
Urban Tech Republic (once Tegel Airport closes)
Another location for start-ups is in the works for Berlin's north side. Once Tegel Airport is
closed and air traffic is moved to the new Berlin-Brandenburg airport, it will become the
site of "Berlin TXL, The Urban Tech Republic". The airport's 460 hectare site will be used
to house space for 800 companies, universities and research institutions. 15,000 jobs will
be created here and 5,000 students will pursue their studies on this campus. The
technologies for the cities of tomorrow will be developed here – including solutions for
energy, water, mobility, recycling, materials, and information and communications
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Berlin becomes Capital – Building projects of the 1990’s and 2000’s
The 1991 decision of the German Bundestag to make Berlin the capital of a reunified
Germany and to relocate the seat of government from Bonn to Berlin resulted in what is
certainly the most impressive structural change to the inner city: the new government
district along the bend in the River Spree surrounding the Reichstag. This decision led to
many countries moving their diplomatic missions back to the neighbourhood along the
southern edge of the Tiergarten with its many luxury villas, an area that had already
served as an embassy district during the pre-war period. Once again, the area is home to
numerous embassies and offices of the 16 German states.
With the support of private capital, Berlin's city administration has taken advantage of
this unique opportunity to transform the wasteland once created by the Wall into new
commercial centres such as along Friedrichstraße, the new Hauptbahnhof (Central
Station) and Potsdamer Platz.
The building administration in Berlin invited the stars of the international architectural
scene to participate in this ambitious undertaking. Renzo Piano, Helmut Jahn, Daniel
Libeskind, Frank O. Gehry, Jean Nouvel, Aldo Rossi, Giorgio Grassi, Richard Rogers, and
Norman Foster were only a few of the award winners in earlier architectural
competitions who went on to create extraordinary buildings here. In addition to the
architect firm Hilmer, Sattler und Albrecht, several architects from Berlin noted for their
tradition-conscious and moderately modern styles were able to establish themselves,
thanks to the assistance of the Berlin municipal administration. Hans Kollhoff, J.P.
Kleihues and his son Jan, Max Dudler, and Jürgen Sawade were names that could be read
most notably on the construction signs in the historic inner city during the 1990s.
The first major measures taken to meet the demands of reurbanization after decades of
decline involved Friedrichstraße and the Gendarmenmarkt. Urban planners were
primarily concerned with the preservation of the building traditions in Berlin, which was
to be expressed in contemporary structures. Twenty percent of all new structures built
in the inner city were required to be residential buildings in order to avoid deserted
downtown areas after business hours.
The first new housing blocks were designed by the Rationalist architect Oswalt Mathias
Unger; the American architect firm Pei, Cobb, Freed & Partners, and the French star
architect Jean Nouvel, who received much attention. The Friedrichstadt arcade extends
across three square blocks. However, the massive concrete structure is neatly concealed
through its integration of four underground levels and a legendary shopping mile that
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receives natural light through large atriums. Jean Nouvel’s Galeries Lafayette with its 36
meter-high glass dome in the center continues the great tradition of Parisian department
stores. This French department store in Berlin with its Dependance restaurant from the
classy Parisian department store also resembles a glass palace from the outside.
The Gendarmenmarkt, which is often described as the most beautiful square in the city,
has also experienced a Renaissance. East German architects left their mark during the
1980s with Plattenbau (prefabricated construction of buildings using large-sized
concrete components) in a style that was closely observed and has now attained
recognition. In front of the unique Schinkel ensemble, which consists of the theater (now
the concert hall) and the German and French Cathedrals, the final completion of the
plaza with unobtrusive, contemporary apartment and business buildings occurred about
ten years later. Across from the German Cathedral, architects Josef Paul Kleihues, Max
Dudler, and Hilmer Sattler Albrecht realized a “stony” addition to Berlin’s architectural
landscape. Quality materials and sparingly-used elegant detailing are characteristic of
these exquisite buildings. They are respectful spectators and do not intend to steal the
show from the key player on this plaza stage, Schinkel’s Concert Hall. Heinz Tesar of
Austria, Claude Vasconi of France, and Jo Coenen of the Netherlands are responsible for
Block 30 built of gray natural stone located east of the Hilton Hotel. Situated between
Friedrichstraße, Behrenstraße, Französischer Straße, and Charlottenstraße, the
Hofgarten sprang from the pens of architects Hans Kollhoff, Jürgen Sawade, Max Dudler,
and Josef Paul Kleihues. Here, too, the reinterpretation of the Berliner block can
immediately be recognized with the typical combination of shopping, residing, and
working, which is supplemented by another posh hotel.
The mythos of the legendary shopping street can be felt here once again – life has
returned to Friedrichstraße. As a result of the elegant shops that have taken up
residence and the proximity of several governmental ministries including the Foreign
Ministry, Friedrichstraße and its immediate vicinity have become a prime location again.
The Potsdamer Platz Neighborhood
Even when it was still the “largest inner-city construction site in Europe,” the Potsdamer
Platz attracted more than ten million curious sightseers who stood in line for information
about the awe-inspiring construction activities at a brightly colored red information kiosk
on stilts which was itself created by the Frankfurt architects Till Schneider and Michael
Schumacher. Until the Potsdamer Platz, no one would have thought that construction
sites were exciting.
Out of the best-known undeveloped wasteland in the city that used to be the no man’s
land of the Berlin Wall, an “urban entertainment center” emerged within only seven
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years from the first draft to the actual construction, primarily through the initiative of
private investors. The creation of a contemporary district offering a combination of
tradition and modernity, where one can go to work, shop, be entertained but also to
reside, attracted worldwide attention.
The area known as the Potsdamer Platz actually consists of five sections: the
DaimlerChrysler district with the Potsdamer Platz Arcades shopping mall, the Sony
Center to the north, the A&T Park Colonnades, the recently completed Beisheim Center,
and the Leipziger Platz with its many individual properties and projects, some of which
are still under development.
DaimlerChrysler District
In 1998, the first section of the modern shopping city was opened. DaimlerChrysler
commissioned both the competition winner Renzo Piano of Genoa, Italy and his German
partner, Christoph Kohlbecker. Despite the critics’ predictions, the risky endeavor of
building a complete district in the city from the ground up and creating a functional
system in which tens of thousands of people congregate daily has been a resounding
success. Piano paid special attention to the quality of the public open spaces: streets,
alleys, and squares teem with street cafes and shops in the European tradition and invite
visitors to stay and linger. In fact, the mixture of shops, restaurants, movie houses,
theaters, and hotels has become a magnet in particular for tourists. The few historical
remains, such as the Lindenallee of the Alte Potsdamer Straße and the Weinhaus Huth
from 1910, may sometimes make you forget that this is in reality a private city owned by
the DaimlerChrysler conglomerate which has been completely rebuilt.
To ensure the semblance of the structural diversity of a growing city, several architects
were invited to participate in the project to produce their own designs and leave their
personal “signatures” on the plaza. For instance, the façade of Renzo Piano’s building is
embellished with small terra cotta tiles in yellow, orange, and ocher tones. The Marlene
Dietrich Platz, which forms a part of Piano’s ensemble and which was the site of the 50th
Berlin International Film Festival in 2002, is impressive with its musical theater and
casino with the imposing cantilevered steel roof. Through its form, size, and skillful
architectural composition that “mirrors” the Staatsbibliothek, the integration into the
overall architectural landscape – which includes the Kulturforum (an architectural legacy
of the postwar era), Mies van der Rohe’s world-renowned New National Gallery, and
Hans Scharoun's Philharmonic Hall – has been very successful.
Across from the casino, the elegant Hotel Grand Hyatt Berlin was realized by José Rafael
Moneo of Spain in cooperation with the Swiss interior designer Hannes Wettstein. Six
floors with more than 350 hotel rooms and suites are arranged around an atrium. The
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city’s dense building style of traditional apartment buildings was given a clever and very
functional new interpretation. The interior of the building is enlarged by air spaces and
ingenious room compositions, which fuse together as a complex structure underscored
by the meticulous coordination of materials.
The Tilla Durieux Park with its lengthy, large-scale lawn sculpture designed by the Dutch
landscape architects DS calls conventional park designs into question. There are three
buildings that resemble large machines. These were designed by the British high-tech
architect Richard Rogers. In the 1970s, Rogers, along with Renzo Piano, had already
made modern architectural history with the Centre Pompidou in Paris.
Next to a movie theater, hotel, and apartment buildings designed by the German
architects Ulrike Lauber and Wolfram Wöhr, the Japanese architect Arata Isozaki created
an office building at the Landwehrkanal. On the other side of the park, several buildings
with a very rationalistic appearance belonging to the "Park Colonnades" are clad in red
brickwork and lined up in a row. The Italian architect Giorgio Grassi provided the
concept, which Peter Schweger, Jürgen Sawade, and Roger Diener of Basel then
transformed into “bridge houses” located on top of a subway tunnel.
The Sony Center
Seen from afar, the focal point of the Sony Center, which opened in 2001, is a giant
white tent roof covering the plaza of the Sony Center with its six buildings. In the
distance, the silhouette of the white roof resembles the Mount Fuji, which is said to have
particularly pleased the Japanese investors with Helmut Jahn’s submission to the design
competition. In the evening, the spectacular roof structure made of steel, glass, and
fabric is illuminated in an interplay of color that is intended to reflect the changing
moods from sunset to darkness. The determining factor for the selection of the
proposed design submitted by this German architect who lives in Chicago was the hitech and futuristic appearance of the steel and glass structure with the "floating" glass
elevators and outdoor escalators. For the electronics conglomerate, this architectural
image seemed very suitable. The Sony Center appears much more uniform than the
DaimlerChrysler district. Several historical relics from the former Esplanade luxury hotel
help to create some variety in the homogeneous and "cool" design of the façade,
seeming to be encased in glass display cases that were integrated into the new buildings.
This also caused an international sensation during the construction: the Imperial Hall, a
protected historical monument that was used by Kaiser Wilhelm II for his soirées, was
literally in the way of city design and planning. This meant that the Imperial Hall had to
be “packed up” and stored on air cushions, only to later be moved seventy-five meters
to the current site over the course of two days.
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A four-story structure prominently pushing upward above the general façade contains
an IMAX movie theater along with its large-format screen and a water pool. Providing an
unusual contrast to the architecture, the American landscape architect Peter Walker
created an artful arrangement of birch trees that defines the almost elliptical plaza
during the daytime. At night, luminescent blue lines over the plaza provide an interesting
The Beisheim Center
Across from the Sony Center is the last section of the Potsdamer Platz to be completed,
the Beisheim Center, which was built between 2001 and 2004. Otto Beisheim is the
founder of the Metro Group and one of the wealthiest business men in the world. On
the occasion of his eightieth birthday, he invested half a billion Euros of his own funds
into this new area that lies on the southern edge of the Tiergarten. It consists of two
hotels, the Berlin Marriott and the Ritz-Carlton, as well as the Parkside Apartments.
The group of buildings in the Beisheim Center is clearly signified by the seventy meterhigh tower of the Ritz-Carlton luxury hotel where shiny golden letters “BC” can be seen
from afar. The exclusive tower apartments with American-style hotel service are located
on the top floors. With its cream-colored limestone façade and the vertical structuring
(similar to the neighboring Kollhoff high-rise which, however, belongs to the
DaimlerChrysler city), this eighteen-story hotel building designed by the architects
Hilmer & Sattler und Albrecht reminds many of the famous Rockefeller Center in New
York or the elegant skyscrapers in Chicago built around the turn of the last century.
While the Ritz-Carlton was the “first building on the block,” the Parkside Apartments are
oriented towards the Tiergarten. English architect David Chipperfield created a
residential building here with thirty-six luxury apartments ranging in size from 150 to 300
sq. m. The target group is an international public that knows how to appreciate modern
noblesse, selected materials, and careful attention to detail. The building with its
prominently rounded edges and the offset balconies expresses a new interpretation of
premium apartment construction without detracting away from its traditional models.
The location of the apartment building at the edge of the Tiergarten and the view from
the top floors are unique.
The Government District on the Water
Two large-scale projects measure up against each other: on one hand, the revitalization
of Friedrichstraße and the new construction of the district at the Potsdamer Platz
financed by private investments and, on the other hand, the ambitious redesign of the
government district around the Reichstag building paid for by public funds.
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Following the decision made in 1991 to move the capital, an urban design competition
for the project was opened up for the future location of the government center along a
stretch of the Spree River. Out of 837 international participants, the winning design
entitled “Band des Bundes” (Ribbon of Government) came from the Berlin architects
Axel Schultes, Charlotte Frank, and Christoph Witt. A ribbon of a number of government
and parliament buildings was built that is about a hundred meters wide and a kilometer
long. It is intended to provide a profound sense of confidence adjacent to the Reichstag
that has been reconverted into a parliament building.
The band runs in an east to west direction, symbolically linking the formerly divided
halves of the city idea and crossing the Spree River three times. The stark shape of the
long band also creates a functional division between the government buildings with their
security requirements and the Tiergarten, which is of great importance to Berlin as a
“green lung.” Furthermore, the “Ribbon of Government” unifies the various architectural
structures as a result of its stringent form.
The Reichstag, which was rebuilt as the seat of the parliament by Lord Norman Foster
and which was further complemented by a glass cupola that is open to the public, is a
solitary gem isolated from the setting of the large “ribbon”. Next to the Federal
Chancellery built by Schulte’s architects as a result of another competition, the massive
complex consisting of the Paul Löbe House and the Marie Elisabeth Lüders House built
by architect Stefan Braunfels of Munich characterizes the entire area. The new
confidence of the reunified Federal Republic of Germany is evidenced not only by the
generous compositions of space in the building’s interior, but also by the imposing
façades and large flights of steps at the publicly accessible banks of the Spree.
The Hauptbahnhof
Rarely has another building project in contemporary architecture ever sparked such a
controversy in Germany as the new construction of the Hauptbahnhof across from the
Government District. The “competition” for the billion-euro building project carried out
between Josef Paul Kleihues and Meinhard von Gerkan was won by the latter. His design
for a form that corresponded to the required intercity rail station consists of an
aboveground 420 meter-long glass hall and an underground-level departure hall that lies
at an angle and which is spanned by two bookend buildings. The idea along the lines of
major railway station buildings of the nineteenth century to use large glass roofs and
natural daylight has been convincingly realized even for the platforms that lie twenty
meters below ground level.
The “new millennium Hauptbahnhof project”, built on former undeveloped land at the
Humboldt Port, has already become a driving engine of Berlin’s new urban development.
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The Pariser Platz with the DZ Bank and the Academy of Arts
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Pariser Platz has provided testimony to the
reconstruction work according to the principle of “critical reconstruction". The buildings
around the prestigious plaza, known simply as “the square” at its origin in the eighteenth
century, were almost entirely destroyed during the war. And as a result of the political
division of Berlin, its fate was to stand in the dark shade of the Wall. The formerly stony
appearance of Berlin’s distinguished “grand foyer” situated behind the Brandenburg
Gate was to be resurrected with the help of contemporary architecture. Worldrenowned architects, such as Gerkan, Marg und Partner; Frank O. Gehry, Christian de
Portzamparc of Paris, and the architect firm Moore Ruble Yudell Architects and Planners
from California, designed embassies and banks. With the Academy of Arts, which
returned to its original location, Günter Behnisch and Werner Durth created the only
glass building on the stone-dominated “block” of the Pariser Platz.
A surprise awaits visitors inside of the building of the “embassy of money,” the DZ Bank
designed by Frank O. Gehry. Built in 1998, the broad abstraction of the façade is meets
municipal building code. The visitor who enters will not encounter a service counter
area, but rather a giant stainless steel sculpture that is reminiscent of a fish. It includes
an exclusive conference room that can be rented for presentations.
The Embassy District
Around 1900, diplomats had already settled into the former elegant villa district on the
southern end of the Tiergarten near the Potsdamer Platz. Monumental new embassy
buildings were built under the Nazis, such as for Japan, Italy, Spain, and Denmark. After
World War II, when Berlin lost its special political status and the capital was relocated to
Bonn, the entire district sank into slumber like Sleeping Beauty. Only as a result of the
decision to move the capital back to Berlin did a varied chain of embassies and state
representations spring up once again.
Hans Hollein’s Austrian embassy that is sheathed with copper is located at the eastern
end of the chain. The imposing white-plastered state representation of BadenWürttemberg (Dietrich Bangert, architect) as well as the embassy of South African (MMA
architects) are close by. The Indian embassy is made of flashy red sandstone from
Rajasthan. And another “red box” houses the state representation of the Free Hanseatic
City of Bremen, which was designed by the Berliner architects Leon, Wohlhage und
Wernik. These are among the most beautiful compositions of space in the new embassy
district. A structure made entirely of glass designed by the Petzinka Pink Architects
represents the most populous German state, North Rhine-Westphalia. The innovative
energy-saving concept in particular attracts many experts. At the western end of
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“Diplomat Street” is the travertine-clad, elegant minimalist Konrad Adenauer Foundation
(Thomas van den Valentyn) and, across the street, the Mexican embassy (Gonzales and
Leon) with its distinctive slanted columns that were hewn from imitation marble by
The Nordic embassies conclude the chain. The unusual ensemble ranks among the
outstanding achievements in architecture in Berlin. The politically significant idea of
designing one common structure for the five Nordic countries found a congenial voice in
the award-winning design submitted by the Austrian-Finnish architect couple Alfred
Berger and Tina Parkkinnen. Behind a single lamellar copper façade and with an
oscillating floor plan, thee five embassy buildings are grouped like pieces of cake. The
embassies of Denmark (3 x Nielsen), Iceland (Palmar Kristmundsson), Norway
(Snoehetta), Sweden (Gerd Wingardh), and Finland (VIIVA Arkkitehtuuri Oy) are arranged
in the same order as they appear on the map. A sixth building that is open to the public
continues the Nordic tradition of a communal building and offers publicly accessible
exhibition space, an auditorium, and a cafeteria.
Museum Island
The five museums on the Museum Island belong to the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage
and are currently the most comprehensive measure of redevelopment. Heinz Tesar, the
architectural firm of HilmerSattler Albrecht, H. G. Merz, Oswald Mathias Ungers, and
David Chipperfield are responsible for the careful restoration of the unique museum
ensemble. A new entrance and visitor building as well as an underground “archeological
promenade” will tie four of the five museums together.
The historical Berlin Mitte district with its Museum Island, the Alexanderplatz, and the
Nikolaiviertel does not appear at first glance to be imbued with spectacular
contemporary architecture. However, with the "Media City on the Spree," which is being
built on the eastern shores of the Spree, it will shape the next generation of modern
urban development.
“Berlin is a city condemned forever to becoming and never to being,” as the writer Karl
Scheffler once declared in 1910. Just like Alfred Döblin’s descriptions of the everlasting
construction sites at the Alexanderplatz, this oft-quoted sentence will continue to hold
true for Berlin in the years to come.
The Jewish Museum
Daniel Libeskind made his debut with perhaps the most complex and interesting of
museum buildings in the city. The design by the Polish-born Jewish-American ranked
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number one among 165 total submissions and is fascinating because of its unparalleled
uniqueness. A building without an entrance, without conventional windows, in an
expressive zig-zag shape, originally even with slanted exterior walls, it seems to close
itself off both from a painless integration into the city and against the pedestrian
functionality of museum buildings. The adjacent historic building, one of the few
preserved Baroque palaces in the city, is skillfully used as the entrance and is connected
to the new museum structure only by an underground path.
The interior of the building is divided into so-called “voids.” Based upon an ideational
line, these vast “empty spaces” or hollow bodies symbolize the unrecoverable
annihilation of the Jewish culture brought on by the Holocaust. Three underground axes
stand for the paths of the Jews in Germany during the 1930s: toward hope, exile, or
destruction. The large stairs, the “Garden of Exile”, and the “Holocaust Tower” reveal
experiences of space that have already deeply moved millions of visitors.
German Historical Museum
The German Historical Museum is situated in the Baroque Zeughaus on Unter den
Linden. A permanent exhibition is housed there.
The new building intended for rotating exhibitions was added onto the back of the
building and was designed by the old master of museum buildings as it were, the
Chinese-American I .M. Pei. The triangular building with the curved glass façade contains
an extravagant foyer and a conical spiral staircase that immediately draws attention to
itself. The back façade of the Zeughaus is incorporated into the hall-like foyer by a glass
façade that is as tall as the building itself. The foyer is richly equipped with bridges,
escalators, galleries, and balustrades. A virtuoso composition of materials consisting of
flawlessly finished French limestone, yellowish “architectural concrete,” North American
granite, and the gray steel and glass façade.
City West – Renaissance of a centre of urban life
East and West Berlin had developed separate city centres during the years of division. In
the years following reunification, most of the planning and construction activities
focused on the city's historic centre around Friedrichstraße and Unter den Linden. In
recent years, though, attention has returned to City West, the heart of old West Berlin
around the Memorial Church and Zoo Station. Renovations such as those of the old
boarding house Haus Cumberland on Kurfürstendamm (opened December 2012), the
restoration of the 1950s-era Bikini Berlin (opened April 2014) and Amerika Haus (which
reopened in October 2014 as the new home for the C/O Berlin centre for photography)
have all contributed significantly to the renaissance of City West. Current construction
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projects are around the Upper West high-rise project directly opposite the newly built
Waldorf Astoria hotel.
Classic Modernisms - Residential Buildings in Berlin in the 20th century
The city's five-story tenements with their narrow, dark backyards built more than a
century ago have long been a focus of experimentation and reform movements.
Internationally significant attempts to change the city's residential landscape have
included Bruno Taut and Martin Wagner's Onkel-Toms-Hütte estate in wooded SteglitzZehlendorf and the estates built by great modernist architects.
The Hufeisensiedlung (Horseshoe Development) in Neukölln, the Weiße Stadt (White
Town) in Reinickendorf, and the Siemensstadt (Siemens City) in Spandau designed by
Walter Gropius and Hans Scharoun are examples of modern living culture with world
reputations. After the Second World War, Stalinallee was built in East Berlin. This
boulevard of palaces of the worker comprises around three thousand apartments and
was constructed in the wedding cake style after models in Moscow. Aldo Rossi once
referred to it as the last great boulevard created in Europe.
The West countered with the “City of Tomorrow.” New forms of residential living and
innovative floor plans were created in the Hansaviertel within the framework of the
International Building Exposition of 1957. In addition to Walter Gropius, Le Corbusier,
and Oscar Niemeyer, the Scandinavian architects Arne Jacobsen, Alvar Aalto, Fisker, and
Samuelson in particular provided important impulses for a new culture of residential
In the 1980s, Berlin once again became the focus of international attention in
architectural. After the grievous experiences with the radical demolishing of buildings
and the consequences of the demolition of entire Gründerzeit districts that dated back
to the decades after the founding of the country in 1871, the divided city was to
renounce the idea of a city landscape suitable for cars and demonstrate the advantages
of a more condensed and livable city within the framework of a renewed International
Building Exposition.
International stars of the architectural scene were invited to build above all apartments,
schools, and kindergartens. The list includes such names as John Hejduk, Aldo Rossi,
OMA, Rob and Leon Krier, Charles Moore, Stanley Tigerman, Christian de Portzamparc,
Robert Stern, Antoine Grumbach, Paolo Portoghesi, Hermann Hertzberger, Arata Isozaki,
Gino Valle, Alvaro Siza, Gustav Peichl, Hans Hollein, Giorgio Grassi, Stirling Wilford,
Gottfried Böhm, O.M. Ungers, Gregotti, Wilhelm Holzbauer, Raimund Abraham,
Martorell, Bohigas and Mackay, Peter Cook, and Christine Hawley.
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More information:
• Modern Architecture
• National Socialist Architecture (including Olympic Stadium)
• Architecture of Socialism
• Modern Housing Estates
• Altstadt Spandau
• Berlin Cathedral
• Central Station
• Charlottenburg Palace
• Gendarmenmarkt
• German Chancellery
• Government Quarter and Embassy District
• Hackesche Höfe
• Jewish Museum (designed by Daniel Libeskind)
• Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church
• Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
• Museum Island
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New Synagogue
Potsdamer Platz
‘West Berlin‘ (including Kulturforum and Kurfürstendamm)
More information at
visitBerlin / Berlin Tourismus & Kongress GmbH
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Am Karlsbad 11
D-10785 Berlin
Press Contact
[email protected]
Tel.: +49 (0)30 26 47 48 – 956
Fax: +49 (0)30 26 47 48 – 968