Berlin has long been European testing ground for all kinds of art. From the beginning of the 20th century, when architecture was liberated from the rigid rules of stifling academies, the city was establishing itself as laboratory for a wide array of projects. From Le Corbusier’s clean lines to Renzo Piano’s intricately balanced mix of styles and bold ideas, contemporary architects transformed Berlin’s skyline into a diverse and internationally influential cityscape. Enjoy highlights from just some of the topics covered by our local experts during our new walking seminar, From Bauhaus to Futurism: Berlin’s 20th Century Architecture.
By Anastasia Fisenko
The Bauhaus Archive is one of the few buildings designed by Bauhaus founder Martin Gropius that was actually realised. The architectural response to the demand for better living conditions for a growing population was a radical step from what had been devised before. With its prime idea to make a symbiosis of natural elements and manmade construction, the building, which today hosts the archive of the School, paved the way for a paradigm shift in urban planning.
The Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung building serves as a visual representation of futuristic trends with its elegant contrast of materials such as natural stone, textural concrete, and wood. Indeed, the building looks like trompe l’oeil and you can easily mistake the ornamental concrete finishing for the surrounding wooden lining.
This intricately hammered metal screen enveloping the Saudi Arabian embassy is one of the highlights of the Embassy District. Made as a contemporary homage to the traditional Islamic ornament, the screen not only serves to secure the building, it also distributes light inside; an impressive example of multifunctional contemporary urban design.
The architectural complex representing the five nordic countries (Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland) demonstrates how their values are interweaved into the design and function of the building. The idea of openness and transparency, for which these countries are known, is bolstered by glass panels instead of walls, as well as by free flow of water in the pond from the outside to the inner yard. The design is also environmentally minded, its light and temperature being regulated by the adjustable copper louvers.
Arguably a piece of architectural propaganda, the Philharmonic was built at the apex of the Cold War, right at the border with East Berlin, to show of the innovation and sophistication of the West.
Don’t be fooled by first impressions. Potsdamer Platz it is not just another downtown with lookalike skyscrapers, but a coordinated system of styles. While the Kollhoff Tower (in the centre) combines a visual language of American early 20th century Art Deco with traditional German peat-fired brick facade. The astounding Bahn Tower (on the right) reflects expressionist utopianism ideas of the 1920s. Image via Wiki Commons