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Thursday, December 11th, 2014

International Architects in Berlin

Restoration of the staircase of the Neues Museum by David ChipperfieldBerlin is one of the most popular destinations in the world for architecture enthusiasts due to a variety of reasons, not just because of its buildings designed by the renowned architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel or other notable members of the Bauhaus. Berlin is a city with a unique charm, composed of extremely developed districts as well as rather outdated areas making it a very attractive location for budding young architects.

The North American architect Daniel Libeskind is a prime example. Towards the end of 90s, Libeskind was presented with an award for his construction project of the Jewish Museum of Berlin, and this significant landmark marked the beginning of his decorated career. The building, with its zigzag form, stands at the entrance to the amazing ‘Garden of Exile’ where visitors can experience a concept known as ‘lack of orientation’ which symbolizes, as the name of the Garden indicates, the exile many Jews had to face during this period.

Libeskind would also be, 15 years later, the mastermind behind the creation of the Academy of the Jewish Museum, situated just opposite the museum in the old Eric F. Ross flower market. This construction, with its interesting cubic design, has similarities with a previous creation by Libeskind, and is home to a library, archives, an auditorium and various offices.

However, Libeskind has also demonstrated an extensive knowledge of other types of architectural structures, not just museums. Currently, from his office in New York, he is working on a residential project on the exclusive Chauseestraße, right in the heart of the thriving city of Berlin, which has an expected occupancy date of 2015. The complex, tailored towards young clients with urban lifestyles, offers 73 apartments of two, three, or four bedrooms and consists of a total surface area of 6000m2.

For Libeskind, the construction of residences is like the ‘fine arts of architecture’, given that this type of work must satisfy the needs of clients with different lifestyles and personal tastes.

Another famous international architect, David Chipperfield, has also worked on various luxury projects in the German capital. In addition to offices in London, Shanghai and Milan, the Briton also has an office on Joachimstraße in the Mitte district of Berlin, in a building he himself designed.

In 1997, The Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation (Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz) entrusted Chipperfield with the task of restoring the Neues Museum in Berlin as well as the remodelling of the famous ‘Island of Museums’. The Neues Museum in Berlin, home to the bust of the royal Egyptian consort, Nefertiti, was designed by a protégé of Schinkel but was eventually restored by the British architect with a more contemporary style. The central staircase is an example of how Chipperfield has combined the original design of the building; its plaster engravings, columns and brick walls, with more modern elements such as concrete.

Following the completion of this restoration project in 2009, the year in which the museum opened its doors to the public, Chipperfield won numerous prizes, as well as the honour of redesigning another magnificent building in Berlin, the New National Gallery, originally designed by the celebrated architect Mies Van der Rohe. The start date of this work is expected for next year.

Such is the involvement of Chipperfield in the city of Berlin that he plans to move there permanently with his family. For this architect, Berlin is a city that not only offers multiple opportunities for already established architects but also for those who are just beginning their careers, given that in the city there are various buildings in need of restoration ripe for converting into something more exclusive at a good price.

Chipperfield’s work is influenced by one of his professors, Sir Norman Foster, another significant architect who left his mark on the city of Berlin. One of his works is the fabulous steel and glass dome of the Parliament building, a modern design which won, in 1995, a European-wide tender for bids and which currently receives 8000 visitors each day. From the dome one can take in some breathtaking views of the city as well as the interior of the plenary chambers.

‘The Berlin Brain’, one of Foster’s projects, is another large glass dome, but this time with the form of a human brain. The dome sits on top of the fantastic library of Philology of the Freie Universität Berlin in Dahlem which consists of more than 600 study stations and 700,000 books.

However, there are a number of other architects that did not achieve their fame because of this city despite working in it, such as Zaha Hadid, the Anglo-Iraqi Pritzker award-winning architect. In general, her work takes an organic and angular form together with metal cladding as we can see with the design of the Stresemannstraße building in Kreuzberg, presented at the International Construction Exhibition in 1987. This residential and office building received a great deal of recognition in the architectural world, and was a significant milestone right at the beginning of her career.

Currently, Hamburg based architect, Hadi Teherani, is working on a construction project of residential homes, offices and commercial units on a never before used site with a surface area of 35000m2. The design recently won a prestigious competition sponsored by the Berlin Senate.

Without a doubt, Berlin will continue to be an interesting destination for professional architects as well as architectural enthusiasts while at the same time remaining a city of great opportunities.

Photo of the restoration of the staircase of the Neues Museum by David Chipperfield courtesy of Ute Zscharnt.

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