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Architravel | Online architectur quide
Architeam Projects


Total Projects in the city of berlin: 35





Berlin is the parvenu amongst the great European capitals. The Romans never made it this far; there is no ruins to tell of earlier civilization. There are no Romanesque churches or Gothic cathe¬drals. Berlin was only mentioned for the first time in a document dating from 1237. And even there the name is not "Berlin", but that of its sister town "Colin", later incorporated into Berlin. At that time the population of the small twin settlement on the River Spree was no more than a few thousand. Berlin-Colin established itself between the towns of Spandau and Kopenick (both at that time greater In Importance) as a trading town located at the Sole favorable crossing point of the river. Until the middle of the 17th century, the architecture of the town was of no more than regional significance.

It was not until the reign of the Great Elector, who returned to devastated Brandenburg from the Netherlands at the end of the Thirty Years War that Berlin began to develop into an influential, high-ranking town. The active support of Immigration led to an Influx of qualified migrants to the town, predominantly from France.

The first architecture of European significance was added to Berlin under the Elector Friedrich III, who crowned himself King Friedrich I in Prussia in 1701. This took the form of the Zeughaus and the Konigliches Schloss. Important impulses for cultural and aca¬demic circles initiated with Queen Sophie Charlotte. She managed to tempt the famous philosopher and mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz to Berlin. On the death of Friedrich I in 1713, the town boasted a population of 60,000 - a modest figure in comparison to Paris, the capital of the "sun king" Louis XIV, who died two years later.

The westward expansion of the city begun under the first Prussian king was continued under Friedrich Wilhelm I. Based upon a rectangular street plan, Friedrichstadt included three characteristic geometric squares, each of them laid out before a city gate: the square of Pariser Platz, the octagon of Leipziger Platz and the circular form of present-day Mehringplatz.

Under Friedrich II, soon to receive the epithet "the Great", the Kingdom of Prussia developed into a major European power and its capital, Berlin, to a city in which trade and commerce, arts and science all flourished. The urban image was altered by the increase in height of the single and twin-storey houses into three and four-storey buildings, with extensions to the rear in the form of side wings making an appearance for the first time. With the Forum Fridericianum, a new state forum was created alongside the historic city centre, the aim of which was to reflect the enlightened approach of the monarch to the concept of the state. The most significant construction of this ensemble, the Konigliche Oper by Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff, was also the first freestanding opera house in Germany. Independent of the Royal Court and the state administration, the Berlin Enlightenment was promoted by citizens, predominantly of Jewish origin, with an interest in academic and literary figures, such as the publisher Friedrich Nicolai, Moses Mendelssohn and Gotthold Ephralm Lesslng.

In 1800, οn the eve of the Napoleonic War and the great Prussian reforms, Berlin numbered 170,000 inhabitants. The borders of the built-up area stretched from Torslrabe in the north to the present-day Mehringplatz in the south, from Pariser Platz In the west In the Frankfurter Tor in the east. The proportions of Berlin were manageable compared to other European cities: Paris at that time had 700,000 inhabitants, London 800,000.

Berlin was negligent in the treatment of its architectural heritage from the very beginning. A large percentage of the Renaissance and Baroque structures were pulled down in the Griinderzeil era, an era of mass industrial expansion dating from 1871, and replaced with new buildings. The destruction of the Second World War and the large-scale redevelopment of the GDR era had the consequence that the core of buildings from the founding era of Berlin can scarcely be perceived today. The few surviving Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque buildings stand in isolation, like museum exhibits in the piecemeal centre of the city.

The New City of Berlin: Construction Work in the 1990s

The 1990s could hardly have had unified greater contrasts in terms of their urban development role models and economic expectations. While the city's population was expected to grow to reach a figure of five million citizens, the expectations that were excessive in some cases have markedly calmed down. No one wanted to speak of a booming city ten years after the fall of the Berlin wall. Berlin's population has decreased since 1996 and the population levels are presently equivalent to the levels at the time of Germany's reunification. The number of apartments that stand empty is well above 100,000; in the case of offices the figure is many times greater in square feet. The senate has incurred follow-up costs, which only future generations will be able to pay off, due to gigantic investments In infrastruc¬ture while the tax revenue was absent.

Despite this sobering end result Berlin has become a Mecca of modern architecture since Germany's reunification. You will hardly find any more markedly contrasting philosophies of architecture anywhere else in the world - with the consequence Berlin is extremely polarized in terms of its planning and construction work. Passionate debates have been held about architecture and urban development especially since the reunification of Germany, which has provided Berlin with a surge in development activities that is unique in history. Upon the dismantling of the scaffolding a city has emerged following the boom of the 1990s, which is more modern than many others, which establishes links with long forgotten traditions and has revealed an astonishing level of diversity. In the past ten years numerous architects from all round the world have embarked on a search for a design for the city in competitions. Each of them has made a contribution ensuring that Berlin has found its own architectural style.

The Berlin architecture dispute, which reached its climax between 1993 and 1995 and at the same time also led to personal animosities arising between the architects, created a big stir throughout the world. This is due to the fact that Berlin has always been a trendsetter for contemporary architecture. This raised expectations in the modern architecture to such an extent after 1990 that the response to the reconstruction of city that had been divided for decades had to be a sobering one. Rather than a city idea, which should have imitated the ideals of long since obsolete city Utopias, the senate awarded a prize to designs, which had some elements that are typical Berlin, but which were nevertheless regarded as an absolute provocation by the international architecture sector, in numerous competitions and expert reports. Almost without exception the senate pursued a strategy of "critical reconstruction" during the reconstruction of Berlin in accordance with the role model of a traditional European city, in specific terms this means that the historic city ground plan has to he restored in those places, where it was meaningful from our current perspective. This applies for instance to the areas at the Leipziger Platz, Pariser Platz or in Friedrichstadt. A new city structure was developed where there were hardly any relics of the old city, whereby the houses are oriented towards the road, form a clear address and are based on the typology of Berlin's office blocks with their characteristic cullis height of 72 feet. In addition there was the fact - and this really heated the debate up - a fundamental specification for the use of materials: The faces were to be designed in natural stone just like the historical models that they were based on. As a consequence this led to a situation whereby a lot of the new buildings were integrated quite naturally, exceptions such as the Galleries Lafayette department are all the more conspicuous as a result. They form a kind of opposition in the "new centre of stone buildings".

In addition to the discussion about architectural details Berlin also initiated a series of major urban development policy decisions, which the urban planners had worked towards for almost 80 years as in the case of the Tiergarten tunnel. Berlin fulfilled the dream of a gigantic traffic hub right in the middle of the city centre through the decision to build the Berlin central station and the resulting necessity to create a north-south axis for transport.

Potsdamer Platz: City Model of the Future?

Potsdamer Platz is something like an urban development fulcrum between the east and the west. For decades, the Berlin wall ran straight across the square, where the first set of traffic lights in Europe was installed in the 1920s. The most recent history of the square, which has become a synonym of the "new city of Berlin", already started in the 1980s when plans were discussed for the "central area" under the urban development senator at that time Volker Hassemer. The basic idea at that time was to breathe new life into this peripheral inner city area, which then led to the Daimler-Benz automotive group purchasing a plot of land, running from the Landwehrkanal to the wall zone, immediately prior to the fall of the wall. The wall fell whilst the contractual negotiations were still pro-gressing, and a peripheral city location became a top site in the centre of a Euro¬pean city with a population of several million people virtually overnight.

A mere six months after the reunification of Germany, the senate launched an urban development competition, which the Munich-based architects Heinz Hilmer and Christoph Sattler won in the autumn on 1991. The master plan envisaged once again providing the former wasteland with the appearance of a European metropolis. In specific terms, this meant that the basic urban development structure would adopt the block model of the Berlin city centre and was expected to emphasize the variety of uses of the .city that is typical of Berlin by means of mixing residential, working, culture and shopping buildings.

The supposed recourse to an historical model of the city was not without its critics. Other architects who took part in the competition dreamt of the invention of a new type of cityscape that had never existed before or the implantation of an American city in the heart of Berlin. A passionate dispute between the architects involved ensued following this, which attracted the attention of the world's media. This is because the points were supposed to be set for Berlin's future development at Potsdamer Platz.

Renzo Piano (Genoa/Paris) and Helmut Jahn (Chicago) ideas for the specification of the master plan won through, who were commissioned by the large investors Daimler-Benz (now called: DaimlerChrysler) and SONY. Whilst Piano enlisted the services of several other architects and provided a certain level of architectural diversity on the part of the 19 buildings in total Jahn provided a design forming "a united and integrated whole". Hence the two largest projects to the west of Potsdamer Platz could not be any more different. SONY presented a homogeneous glass-steel form of architecture, which permitted a Plaza to be constructed in its centre. DaimlerChrysler created a traditional European cityscape made of different individual buildings and narrow streets. The fact the area was constructed at the end of the 20th century despite having a city typology that had been developed in the 19th century, cannot be overlooked: An underground car park with direct access to the Tiergarten tunnel pays homage to the product, which provided the proceeds to make all this possible - the car.

An equally significant project has been built as the final module around Potsdamer Platz. The Lenne-Dreieck by the investor Beisheim.

New Old Capital: Novelty on the one Hand, Continuity on the Other

The 20th June 1991 can be entered into the most significant dates in the youngest history of Berlin, after 3rd October 1990: with a tight majority, the Deutsche Bundestag voted in favor of transferring the seat of the government 1Ε from Bonn to Berlin. Since the foundation 1 of the Deutsches Reich, Berlin has administered uninterrupted capital and governmental functions. The city has a large spectrum of political buildings due to these functions. In addition, every era on the Spree has written new architectural history. This is because with every new political system, the requirements on the city's representation have changed. In this way, the Reichstag did not just embody the Kaiserzeit. It also formed a town planning counterweight to the Stadtschloss der Hohenzollern due to its monumentality. Even when the Volksverrreter (people's representative) in the Reichstag still did not have the political power of a parliament in today's license of the word, the growing democracy manifested itself with a powerful 'building in the cityscape.

The political architecture of the Weimar Republic on the other hand did not reach beyond the planning for the capital due to its frequent government changes. For the square in front of the Reichstag, after unsuccessful participation in the competition to expand the Reichstag, Hugo Haring put forward designs for a "Democratic Forum" in 1929. 0n a semi-circular rostrum opening out towards the Reichstag, the people would be able to "take a seat" in the truest sense of the word and be able to enter into a symbolic interplay between parliament land public. Over sixty years later, the winners of the Spreebogen competition of 1993, Axel Schultes and Charlotte Frank took up this idea of a place for citizens again with the Bundesforum.

The cautious attempt in the Weimar Republic to formulate an architectonic expression for a democratic system was initially ended with the assumption of power by the National Socialists. From 1993, numerous governmental buildings developed in Berlin, which were characterized by a clear tectonic organization and stone solidity. On Wilhelmstrabe, for example, between the years of 1934 and 1936, the Reichsluftfahrtministerium was erected in accordance with plans by Ernst Sagebiel. With the new construction on the corner of Leipziger Strabe, the Third Reich continued a tradition of governmental buildings, which had begun in the middle of the 19th century in Prussia: the extension of Wilhelmstrafie to a governmental axis. After demolishing the Reichskanzlei and the Reichsprasidentenpalais, the over-dimensioned Neue Reichskanzlei developed there between 1937 and 1939 from a plan made by Albert Speer. The NeueReichskanzlei's gallery of mirrors had gigantic dimensions of almost 500 feet.

A transfer of political power from Wilhelmstrabe began with the division of Berlin. The GDR had their most important political buildings constructed in the area of the Spree Island, among which the Staatsratsgebaude and the Palast der Republik. Not far away, the central committee of the SED took up residence in the former Reichsbank, which is used today as the official residence of the Auswartiges Amt and has come to stand exemplarily for a new self-image of the Federal Republic of Germany: the political and structural legacy of governmental buildings of past - mostly undemocratic - systems is not covered up. Instead, it is put into a new context with the help of conversions or new buildings. The numerous governmental and parliamentary locations from the different eras contribute therefore to the fact that the Berlin cityscape has become a type of open-air museum of the political architecture in Germany.

The above text is taken from the book "THE ARCHITECTURE GUIDE: BERLIN".
Authors: Rainer Haubrich | Hans Wolfgang Haoffmann | Philipp Meuser.
Edited by Markus Sebastian Braun.

Featured Projects

  • Project Name: AEG Turbine Factory
  • Construction year: 1909
  • Architect(s): Peter Behrens
  • Project Category:
  • Address: Huttenstraße and Berlichingenstraße, BERLIN, Germany
  • Latitude: 52.52809
  • Longitude: 13.32458
  • Address: Wallstraße 76-79, BERLIN, Germany
  • Latitude: 52.5123
  • Longitude: 13.4094
  • Address: Europaplatz 1, BERLIN, Germany
  • Latitude: 52.5252
  • Longitude: 13.3684
  • Address: Ben-Gurion-Straße, BERLIN, Germany
  • Latitude: 52.51038
  • Longitude: 13.37103
  • Address: Potsdamer Straße 33, BERLIN, Germany
  • Latitude: 52.50683
  • Longitude: 13.36962