Filling the Space: The Kulturforum Over Time

21.12.2018Filling the Space: The Kulturforum Over Time

The architects Herzog and de Meuron visualized a “concept of density, not empty space.” But how could the barrenness caused by war and cemented in place by the Berlin Wall gradually develop into a dense cultural landscape? The development can be traced by remembering the major anniversaries that were marked in 2018.

By Jonas Dehn

Das Kulturforum 1978
Das Kulturforum 1978 © bpk / Rolf Koehler

50 years ago

One of 2018’s highlights was celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Neue Nationalgalerie. This icon of modernity with its simple but clear form opened on September 15, 1968. With it, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe created the second architectural sensation on this site. The Neue Nationalgalerie’s strict geometry contrasted with the organic architecture of the Philharmonie, which was designed by Hans Scharoun and opened nearby in 1963.

The Neue Nationalgalerie shortly after its completion in 1968
The Neue Nationalgalerie shortly after its completion in 1968 © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Zentralarchiv/ Fotograf: Reinhard Friedrich
The Wall at its back: the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin in the Kulturforum in the late 1970s.
The Wall at its back: the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin in the Kulturforum in the late 1970s. © Bildarchiv BBR

40 years ago

Ten years later – that is, 40 years ago – the new Staatsbibliothek (Berlin State Library) building was opened on December 15, 1978, on the other side of Potsdamer Strasse. It was designed by Hans Scharoun with the help of Edgar Wisniewski and followed the style of the nearby Philharmonie. Along with music and the visual arts, the written word now had a place on the Kulturforum. An open design with expansive reading areas flooded by light is characteristic of the building. The Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut (Ibero-American Institute) is also located in this building.

20 years ago

The Philharmonie received musical neighbors in the form of the Kammermusiksaal (Chamber Music Hall) and the Staatliches Institut für Musikforschung (State Institute of Music Research) with the Musikinstrumenten-Museum (Museum of Musical Instruments). After the Kupferstichkabinett (Museum of Prints and Drawings), Kunstbibliothek (Art Library), and Kunstgewerbemuseum (Museum of Decorative Arts) were built around the Piazzetta, another building was added 20 years ago. The Gemäldegalerie (Old Master Paintings) opened on the west side of the Kulturforum in 1998. In contrast to the architectural gems of the early period, this building by Hilmer & Sattler stands out for its restrained simplicity. After being separated for decades, collections from East and West Berlin could finally be united in the Kulturforum. The Gemäldegalerie’s rooms are filled with clear light and grouped around a quiet foyer.

Almost completed: the Gemäldegalerie in 1995
Almost completed: the Gemäldegalerie in 1995 © bpk/Dietmar Katz
Fassade Nordeingang, Scharounplatz: Die großflächig verglaste Fassade zum Scharounplatz wirkt einladend und verbindet das Museum mit dem umgebenden Stadtraum.
Fassade Nordeingang, Scharounplatz: Die großflächig verglaste Fassade zum Scharounplatz wirkt einladend und verbindet das Museum mit dem umgebenden Stadtraum. © Herzog & de Meuron

Today

As far as architecture is concerned, something important also happened in 2018. In October, architects Herzog & de Meuron presented the preliminary design for the Museum des 20. Jahrhunderts (Museum of the 20th Century). In its central position in the Kulturforum surrounded by the Neue Nationalgalerie, Philharmonie, Staatsbibliothek, and the museums on the Piazzetta, the new building will help create a seamless cultural landscape.

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