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Humboldt-Box, Berlin

Berlin is not only the capital of the Federal Republic of Germany, but has become a metropolis that symbolises transience and incompletion. Expecting a city that has undergone such radical change to display a cohesive architectural language would be over-optimistic. Architecture in Berlin is perhaps the result of creativity in the city, and the Humboldt-Box standsout as a futuristic structure within such a process of change. Urban and architectural change in the area where the Humboldt-Box is located began after the Soviet occupation of Berlin. The Hohenzollern Stadtschloss, which stood in the area, was demolished by the East German authorities in 1950 and replaced by the Palace of the Republic, the most prestigious building of the Democratic German Republic. This building was, in its turn, demolished after the reunion of Germany, and the area completely grassed over in an attempt to create an urban space until reconstruction of the original Stadtschloss begins.

The third step was construction of the controversial HumboldtBox (Info-Box), intended to accompany this reconstruction process. A competition held to select a design for the InfoBox specified many details in advance, so placing severe restrictions on the proposed design. The narrow and angular building plot, the number of infrastructural arteries that run right under the site, the fact that a planned underground rail line was to run right by it and during construction was likely to largely conceal the structure, are just some of many factors that influenced the KSV (Krüger Schuberth Vandreike) architectural firm at the design stage, as well as their own decisions. Consequently a building that is the opposite of modern and represents futuristic provocation has emerged. The conspicuous lines of the steel construction visible on the facade increase the recognisability of the building. lrregular frames and alterable cladding materials on the facade are intended to stress the concept of transience. Over 2000 sqm of cladding material was used inside the total of 92 frames. It is planned to begin construction of the new Stadtschloss in 2014. Since this date has already been postponed for several years for political and financial reasons, it seems likely that the Humboldt-Box will remain standing beyond the planned date of 2019.

To conclude, as pointed out by Heraclitus of Ephesus, change is the only thing that never changes. When the time comes the Humboldt-Box will be demolished, and its 85 percent recyclable Materials will appear in a different form. So this game of jigsaw will carry on.


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Humbold University Library, Berlin

Today some building types are engaged in a kind of identity battle. This situation gives rise to significant changes in the course that needs to be followed at the design stage, and matters that need special attention. For example, electronic books and the internet in particular, threaten conventional books as a source of information, just like the big bad wolf that threatens Little Red Riding Hood. But from their fortresses -that is, libraries- books are defending their traditional role as an information source with all their power. Under these conditions libraries, which are in a sense fighting for survival, are bringing the weapon of „architectural attraction“ into play. Of course, although this situation appears to be an advantage, Situations can arise in which function and aesthetic clash. The Grimm Brothers Library, which is very attractive in aesthetic terms but has some functional drawbacks, is a good example.

Two centuries ago, Wilhelm von Humboldt established a university in Berlin that was open to everyone to attend and combined education and research under one roof. Until recently the Alma Mater Beroliensis, now called Humboldt University, used the state library for its own library needs. In 2009, however, it finally acquired its own library, which is dedicated to the Grimm brothers Jakop and Wilhelm. This building, with its 57 km of shelving and 2.5 million books, is Germany’s largest library in the field of literature, the humanities and social Sciences, and by coincidence is located in Berlin, where books were ceremoniously burnt in 1933.

Among the 270 entries submitted to the architectural design competition for the library, that by the Swiss architect Max Dudler, whose main office is located in Berlin, was selected as the winner. The Grimm Brothers Library has a design that is uncompromising in the severity of the angular and cubic forms of classic modern architecture that is so widespread in Berlin. Winner of three local and national architectural prizes, the library consists of 12 storeys over an area of 20.000 m2. It was awarded the German Chamber of Architects Nike Prize in terms of its urban planning. Dudler has endeavoured to create the ideal library environment for readers, with excellently lit reading rooms and a clear plan. The library also contains a complete collection of the original works of the Grimm Brothers.

The diocesan library that opened in Münster five years ago may be regarded as a preliminary study for, or smaller but elder brother to, the library in Berlin, in terms of plan, materials, Façade functioning etc. Apart from its scale, this library, which was also designed by Dudler, is almost identical to that in Berlin. Leaving aside all the features, good or bad, of the two buildings, as Victor Hugo said, „A library implies an act of faith”.


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Ozeaneum Stralsund, Germany

OZEANEUM is a museum of oceanography in the German city of Stralsund and one of the foremost of its kind in the world. It is located on the seafront in the city’s historic dock area, a UNESCO World Heritage site that has preserved its old warehouses and original architectural identity However, the museum has been designed to deliberately ignore the historic buildings around it, instead forging a relationship with the sea. The objective was not to create a building in tune with its environs but an original building capable of forming a unique centre of attraction, not only for the city itself, but for neighbouring regions.

OZEANEUM was designed as an open structure allowing daylight to enter the museuro on every side. At the heart of the design is the concept of water brought by waves flowing around stones on a beach. The building consists of four separate sections, the „stones“, in each of which are exhibitions on different themes. In accordance with the same concept visitors can wander between and inside the stones like streams of water. A 30 metre lang elevator that is an unconventional feature of this organic building marks the beginning of the museuro experience. This elevator links the entrance Iobby; which has been designed as a space independent of the exhibition areas, with the first exhibition space on the upper Ievel. As you rise upwards beside the gigantic skeleton of a whale, attention is drawn from the large span of the entrance section to the outside Iandscape rather than the building. In this way the consdous contradiction between the building and its environs is preserved in the interior by means of incongruous elements and directions.

The museum tour moves alternately from largely dark and dramatically lit galleries to spacious and well-lit drculation areas, so that the tour flows and avoids the static atmosphere customary in museums. The building sometimes presents scenes from the underwater world and sometimes presents a dynamic environment by forging links with the city by means of bridges and transition elements between spaces. Metal bands hanging from the walls resemble sails waving in the wind, and so !end form to each of the „stones“. This thin and apparently light facing has a flexible appearance that is never still.

Although the four „stones“ faced with metal bands reveal many cross-sections, they also create a unified effect. As well as these, the function of each unit has played an important role in its design. For example the aquariums have been designed in a central position and incorporates technical units.


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Changes that have come about in the course of development in Berlin have had an impact on all areas of life. Germany’s lighting sector, which is a Ieader in Europe, is one of the areas where this process has made itself felt. Up to the time of the Light Festival, lighting passed through various phases, both as a sector and in visual terms. Sociocultural change commencing in the late 1800s reshaped urban life. At the beginning of the 19th century, development of the lighting sector, and subsequently political factors, added new functions to the use of light. In the post-WWII years the city entered a long period of silence, but after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 it recovered its former splendour. Following this historical event Berlin experienced an explosion in the construction sector that made it a metropolis where lighting and architecture converge. The Light Festival held here annually is a magnificent display of cutting edge lighting technology. This festival is an example of innovative urban lighting design, whose fundamental concept is to create a city that is different by night. In the symbolic and artistic senses, this concept goes beyond the idea of light as a functional tool, which motivated artists such as Venturi and Schwartz. The intention is not just to illuminate buildings by night or to achieve aesthetic effects. This new concept lies behind the question of how a city can be redesigned by night in a way that lends a new dimension to the social lives of its inhabitants, by focusing on the city’s physical, functional and morphological character. Modem lighting techniques have played an important role in putting this concept into practice. In contrast to traditional facade

illumination systems, modern techniques have brought new dimensions to the interaction between architecture and light. Buildings acquire new forms of expression by means of the harmonic effect of environmental lighting, enabling them to arouse aesthetically different feelings in the observer. The festival in Berlin, which is one of the foremost examples of the concept, lends many buildings distinctive and impressive „night-time“ identities that are a complete departure from their „day-time“ identities. For two weeks the city becomes a „Shining Metropolis“, where not just world famous buildings, but many buildings of various types are illuminated in a captivating way. On the other hand, however, we are now experiencing an energy crisis, and alternative energy sources for the future are being sought. In this respect, not just the visual and sociological effect of illumination, but its impact on the environment must be taken into consideration.


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Berlin, which has been described as a „delayed metropolis“ has developed extremely quickly This rapid development has meant that all the buildings that have witnessed recent history have faced expansion, demolition or conversion to a new function. For example, new building began in the district of Moabit as part of the expansion project for 19th-century Berlin. Moabit was selected to be an industrial area within the city boundaries, and with the rising population, the transport network also expanded, increasing the number of transportation structures. In time the industrial buildings in this area were surrounded by dwellings, and in 1889-1891 a tram depot with a net area of 10,800 sqm was constructed here.

This building designed by the architect Joseph Fischer Dick was the largest of its kind in Europe. In 1924 the building was restored by Jean Kraemer in line with the „modern“ architecture of the period. Kraemer added extensions to the building, and the roof which is still in use today. When West Berlin’s tram system was abolished at the end of the 1960s, artists settled in the tram depot. At the end of the l990s, occupation of the building was prohibited due to concerns about its structural safety. After four years of preparation work and two years of construction, the depot reopened in 2004 with an entirely new functional

concept. The former depot had become a kind of marketplace where everyone involved in the classic car sector, from retailers and repairers to experts and customers in search of nostalgia, were gathered This new concept was brought into being by Martin Hadler under the name „Meilenwerk“. The project began as an academic study and ended up as a new institution in Berlin, constructed at a cost of 11 million euros. Meilenwerk is a symbiosis of units that interact with one another. It is neither a museum containing businesses, or a business containing a museum; but a space where all the units it contains, from repair shops to offices, exhibition area to meeting area, are intertwined and benefit from the existence of the others. Just as in the forums of ancient Roman culture, people come to Meilenwerk not just to make purchases, but also exchange ideas. The most significant concept incorporated into the design is the way in which the building was given its new function by transforming the „old“ into the „new”, without destroying its historical dimension. Instead of replacing all the architectural elements with ones, it was decided to renovate them.


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Berlin Central Station (Hauptbahnhof) opened in June 2006 during the World Football Championship held in Germany, and over a million people attended the opening ceremony. This gigantic building situated in the Tiergarten district of Berlin is the largest railway station in Europe. The architectural competition for the design held in 1993 was won by the Hamburg firm of architects Gerkan, Marg und Partner (GMP). Emphasising the directions of the traffic flow of the existing overground rail system on the east-west axis in the context of the urban space is the fundamental design principle of the building. The new north-south axis, on the other hand, is located underground. This axis uses the large empty space previously the security zone for the Berlin Wall.

Various interminable debates are still going on about this monumental building in the centre of Berlin. The first of these controversies, which began even before the building was constructed on a site entirely surrounded by empty land. Since the city had formerly been divided in two, the new station is at a distance from both city centres. The second controversy concerns expenditure on the system and building the original estimate of 350 million Euros for the building was exceeded, and it eventually cost 700 million Euros.

Morover, various problems cause delay, and construction was not completed until the year 2006, instead of 2000 as originally planned.

Serious disagreements between German Rail (DB) and Von Gerkan ended with the architect going court. DB, which made incredible changes in the original design in order to reduce costs and ensure that the building would be ready in time for the World Cup 2006, was the centre of the controversy.

The European Railways map distributed by DB a day after the new station opened seem to have been printed be the politicians. According to this new map, Europe has extended to include Poland and Moscow; with Berlin – in the imagination of the politicians perhaps- shown as the sole centre of the entire continent, where all the roads of Europe converge.