Congress Hall (Berlin)
|Client||Benjamin Franklin Foundation|
|Construction year||October 3, 1956 -
September 19, 1957
|Free-hanging roof with double-curved prestressed concrete ceiling|
The Kongresshalle is a Berlin building for events and exhibitions on John-Foster-Dulles-Allee in the Großer Tiergarten and government district . To this day, the congress hall causes a sensation and attraction with its roof, which spans the auditorium in a wide and high arc . The roof consists of a network of steel cables suspended from two steel arches and covered with concrete.
In the first decades, the congress hall was a prominent symbol for the German-American alliance and was used politically during the Cold War era and beyond. After the partial collapse in 1980 and the reconstruction in 1987, the cultural-political agenda changed, since then the German-American focus has been expanded through a multicultural program in the House of World Cultures (HKW). The Foreign Office oversees the HKW as one of five commissioned and financed intermediary organizations in the field of foreign cultural policy . The HKW receives regular funding from the Federal Foreign Office and the Federal Commissioner for Culture and the Media .
The arched roof spans the auditorium , which offers seating for around 1,000 participants. Below the sloping auditorium is a high room for the foyer , into which daylight is let in by a continuous strip of windows. The former main entrance to the foyer led over the roof terrace, which has an area of 92 m × 96 m. The outer roof has a maximum span of 61 m as the crow flies and a vertex radius of 77.3 m between the low points; the two prestressed concrete arches extend over a radius of 110 m each. Below the roof terrace there are two more storeys, there are further functional areas such as an exhibition hall with around 1000 m², conference rooms, theater, restaurant, bookstore.
On the street side is a rectangular, 60 m × 90 m large water basin ("mirror pond") with a fountain, in which a bronze sculpture by Henry Moore has been installed since 1987 : Large Divided Oval: Butterfly . A concrete walkway lined with ornamental plants and an outside staircase lead across the pond to the former main entrance on the roof terrace. Today the main entrance is below the outside staircase. On the waterside, there is a summer café on the banks of the Spree with a ship landing stage. The Berlin Senate placed the building under monument protection seven months after completion.
The convention center was 1956/1957 on the initiative of the former Berlin-charge of the State Department , Eleanor Dulles as a contribution of the United States to the International Building Exhibition Interbau built 1957th Eleanor Dulles and her brothers Allen Dulles , CIA director since 1953, and John Foster Dulles , US Secretary of State since 1953, had direct access to the center of power in US politics. When she left the office of Berlin Commissioner, Willy Brandt referred to her as the “Mother of Berlin”. For the construction, Dulles founded the “Benjamin Franklin Foundation” as the client and handed over the “Benjamin Franklin Hall” as a “gift” to the city of Berlin on April 26, 1958.
The “gift” from the foundation initially cost 15.8 million marks and 600,000 marks for the land. The German federal budget took over the majority of the costs of nine million marks. In the end, the costs rose to a total of 19 million marks (adjusted for purchasing power in today's currency: around 46.30 million euros). In the post-war years , building in Berlin became a competition between the political systems. The Interbau was the Western response to the generously appointed Stalin Allee in East Berlin .
When the foundation stone was laid on October 3, 1956, the architect Hugh Stubbins and Eleanor Dulles described the building as a “beacon of freedom that sends its rays to the east”. Intensive night lighting was part of the building concept from the start. In addition, white was chosen as the roof color in order to reflect intensely when exposed to sunlight. The congress hall was not only placed close to the border with the Soviet sector, but also on top of a raised hill to make its contours visible in East Berlin. Stubbins later admitted: "This was actually a propaganda building aimed at the Soviets , who were only a mile away." The proximity to the Soviet sector border - still without a wall - was decisive for the choice of the building site , but also to the future German government district, the construction of which was expected there. The zoo , which was cleared at the time , still gave a clear view of the Reichstag building opposite ; part of the property is located on the site of the former Kroll Opera . In the construction contract, the unobstructability and unique position of the congress hall was fixed.
Stubbins' project partner was the New York civil engineer Fred Severud, who recommended that he orientate himself on the Dorton Arena in Raleigh (North Carolina) based on the concept of the Polish architect and US immigrant Maciej and Matthew Nowicki . Severud had calculated the statics of the Dorton Arena , which is the first large structure in architectural history with a freely hanging roof. Two large curved edge rope cables ("edge beams") carry the saddle-shaped curved roof surface, a hyperbolic paraboloid shell , i.e. a double-curved surface that is spanned by a network of prestressing steel cables. At the Dorton Arena , the tensile force of the two crossing ropes at the ends of the steel arches is connected to one another by horizontal tension ropes in the ground. Stubbins, on the other hand, concentrated and fixed the tensile force of the two steel arches above the congress hall on an abutment and foundation in the ground.
The congress hall deviated significantly from the original in another respect, as the test engineer Werner Koepcke did not approve the original design of a cantilevered ceiling. A cantilever construction of this span, resting on only two base points, was not considered feasible in the 1950s. However, Koepcke offered an alternative, which was then taken over by the two Berlin contact architects Werner Düttmann and Franz Mocken under time pressure and implemented against the will, but with the tolerance of Stubbins. A second roof was hung in the middle of the original suspended roof and supported on the floor with the wall of the auditorium using a “ring anchor”. The overhanging overall roof with the supporting and edge ropes ("edge beams") was now also kept in balance by the inner "ring anchor". In the “Congress Hall Debate” in the magazines Bauwelt and baukunst und werkform , this complicated suspension met with sharp protests. Frei Otto , who got to know the Dorton Arena in the office of the New York civil engineer Fred Severud and who then published the first complete work on structures subject to tension in 1954, said in 1956: “Loads are hung in the air. [...] There has never been a hanging roof with such an expensive and cumbersome construction. ”The architect Pier Luigi Nervi stated in 1959: The roof“ violates the natural principles of statics and construction ”. To this day, it has remained an open question among experts whether it was possible to achieve a stable construction with the resources of the 1950s.
Collapse of the outer roof
On the morning of May 21, 1980, the southern part of the roof edge collapsed during a press conference for a meeting of the Ring Deutscher Makler , which was to take place the next day. Five people were injured, and a 27-year-old business editor for the broadcaster Free Berlin died of his injuries. A structural examination by experts confirmed the initial assumptions made by experts: The technical cause was both inadequate planning of the roof and in poor construction and thus ultimately in a statics error. The compression of the ducts around the tension cables was overloaded by the constant tension and relaxation of the roof caused by wind, snow and temperature fluctuations. This material fatigue ultimately caused stress corrosion cracking of the prestressing steel . The report on the causes of the partial collapse therefore came to the following conclusion:
"The collapse of the southern outer roof and the peripheral tie of the Berlin Congress Hall their arch bearing the edge was inadequate structural planning and construction of the outer roofs and, consequently, to corrosion-related fractures tendons caused."
The corrosion of the tension cables occurred shortly before the outer wall on the outer roof, where the weight of the overhanging roof edge had the greatest effect. This material wear and tear occurred because the suspended roof was deprived of its original elasticity through the installation of a second and fixed roof. Stubbins was of the same opinion: "From his point of view, the change in the roof plans led to the collapse."
First of all, in the ongoing discussion, the demolition of the ruins was seriously considered, among other things because the ICC had already been a much larger congress center since 1979. The decisive factor for the renovation was the argument that the congress hall was a "historical and political document". After careful demolition work on the roof, the congress hall was renovated and rebuilt from 1984 to 1987. The Berlin architects Hans-Peter Störl and Wolf-Rüdiger Borchardt were responsible for the renovation of the lower floors, the roof remained excluded. They determined the original materials of the components and materials and used them for the renovation. However, the old technical infrastructure was largely not renewed in order to stay within the politically prescribed budget.
After the tender for the reconstruction of the outer roof, the then Governing Mayor Richard von Weizsäcker and Building Senator Ulrich Rastemborski favored and recommended a bid from Krupp -Stahlbau with ICC planner Ralf Schüler , who had designed a light steel roof. Compared to the other versions with concrete shell constructions, it was also the cheapest. After the bidding process, the company Dyckerhoff & Widmann subsequently undercut the offers of the competitors by ten million marks, which, however, was not rejected but accepted. However, Weizsäcker and Rastemborski resigned prematurely for various reasons and so Dyckerhoff & Widmann was awarded the contract for their heavy roof version. In the course of the construction work, the roof construction costs rose again to the level of the original offer. The renovation cost a total of 40 million marks (adjusted for purchasing power in today's currency: around 36 million euros), which also corresponded to the political guidelines.
Civil engineer Helmut Bomhard was entrusted with the management of the roof construction. First, however, he had to convince the building authorities that it was not reinforced concrete as required, but prestressed concrete that had better tensile properties. The roof was left hanging freely as originally planned by Stubbins and the fixation ("ring anchor") of the auditorium wall on the roof was removed. The auditorium received its own roof at a distance of 90 cm below the outer roof. During the reconstruction, initially only the two edge cable arches ("edge beams") had a falsework , but not the steel cables between the arches. Bomhard had concrete segments suspended from the middle, from the “low point” up to the arches on the steel net. In contrast to the Dorton Arena, the steel mesh of the roof shell is not prestressed. The lower roof of the auditorium, which was built first, served as a support for the falsework for the outer roof for the final filling of the joints with lightweight concrete . The building was reopened on May 9, 1987 for the 750th anniversary of Berlin .
Starting in July 2006, the congress hall was slightly rebuilt, renovated, and equipped with sanitary facilities and new technical infrastructure for a year at a cost of 8.8 million euros, which had been left out during the first renovation in the 1980s. The original paintwork in pastel tones was reapplied. On August 21, 2007, the reopening of the Congress Hall was celebrated, which was accompanied by the art exhibition "New York - States of Mind". This was followed by the conference "New York - Berlin: Diversity, Cultures, Urban Spaces", opened by Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier , on September 19, 2007 after exactly 50 years of its first opening .
A further renovation took place from September to December 2016, for smaller events the auditorium can be separated into two parts with little effort. The lighting has been optimized both inside and outside.
The hyperbolic parabolic shell of the Dorton Arena inspired internationally known architects such as Eero Saarinen , Frei Otto and Kenzo Tange to further develop free-hanging roofs. A few other architects and civil engineers largely adopted the model of the Dorton Arena , which leads the hanging arches into the ground so that one can speak of one type of building . The Berlin Congress Hall became the most famous building of this type. The transmitter building of Europe 1 in Felsberg-Berus (1954), the Feierabendhaus Knapsack (1957) in Hürth , the sports hall Športová hala Pasienky (1958) in Bratislava , the ice arena ( Ice Aréna ) in Prešov, Slovakia (1965), Müthers Teepott in Rostock - Warnemünde (1968) and the Sporthal Beverwijk in Beverwijk (1971) each have a larger glass facade as a variant of the congress hall. It only has the large overhang of the roof of the congress hall in common with the tea pot .
Culture and politics
- Due to its shell shape, tourist guides and journalists usually use the Berlin nickname as the pregnant oyster . The concept of the pregnant oyster , which has become popular, goes back to journalists who, however, attributed it to the Berlin vernacular. In the early days, among other things, the names were female Dulles ' hat and Uncle Sams cylinder called. The protruding edge of the roof, which emphasizes the curve of the building a second time, is sometimes seen as “ hat brim ”, “roof brim” or “ Stetson ”.
- One day after the opening, on September 20, 1957, the CIA- controlled Congress for Cultural Freedom , chaired by Melvin Lasky, met in the congress hall and discussed the topic of "Music and the Visual Arts". Participants included Theodor W. Adorno , Will Grohmann , Boris Blacher , Isamu Noguchi , Hans Heinz Stuckenschmidt . The Congress for Cultural Freedom promoted freedom and democracy as well as abstract , non- representational art , atonal music and modern architecture ( international style ).
- On October 15, 1957, a meeting of the German Bundestag took place in the congress hall for the first time . The Federal German Parliament met several times in its 2nd , 3rd and 4th electoral terms in Berlin, seven times in the large lecture hall of the Physics Institute of the Technical University and twice in the Congress Hall , as did the Federal Assembly in the East Prussia Hall on the Berlin Exhibition Center . This regularly met with violent opposition from the governments of the GDR and the USSR , since they did not recognize West Berlin as the territory of the FRG . The second session of the Bundestag in the Congress Hall, the last in West Berlin, took place on April 7, 1965. This week the Warsaw Pact held a major exercise. According to Der Spiegel , the GDR only reacted to the announcement of the meeting on March 15, 1965, although the NVA only had three weeks of preparation. For the first time, Soviet jet planes flew over the West Berlin area in supersonic and low-level flight and disrupted the Bundestag session in the congress hall. Individual MPs left the meeting to observe the maneuvers. There were waiting times of up to 20 hours on the transit routes . Thereafter, the West Allies forbade the Federal Government to hold further meetings in West Berlin. In the Four Power Agreement on Berlin of 1971, the Western Powers undertook not to allow any more plenary sessions of the Bundestag in Berlin. Only after the political change did West German MPs meet again in Berlin.
- From 1958 to the 1970s, the festive opening of the Berlinale took place in the congress hall. From 1994 to 2000 the congress hall served as the venue for the annual Berlin Jazz Festival .
- Henry Moore's bronze sculpture Large Divided Oval: Butterfly on the pond in front of the congress hall was cast in 1986 by the well-known Berlin foundry Hermann Noack . The art foundry polished the sculpture up again in 2010. The bronze sculpture weighs over eight tons and, at 3.5 million marks, was one of the most expensive art purchases in the city of Berlin. The sculpture was erected on the occasion of the 750th anniversary of Berlin in 1987 and is Moore's last public work.
- Because of its futuristic appearance, the congress hall was chosen as a film set for the science fiction film Æon Flux (2005). Other films with the location Kongresshalle were Margarethe von Trotta's east-west drama The Promise (1995) and Thorsten Schmidt's police comedy Snow on New Year's Night (1999) from the ZDF series Die Musterknaben .
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