Kulturforum Berlin

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Main entrance to the Kulturforum

The Cultural Forum in Berlin is an urban area between the Landwehr Canal , Big Tiergarten and Potsdamer Platz in the district Tiergarten of the district center , the museums , libraries and music rooms includes.

Development history

Chamber music hall and philharmonic orchestra
New National Gallery, 2010

The development of the former Wilhelminian style villa district on the southern edge of the Tiergarten had already been largely demolished under the National Socialists as part of the planned transformation of Berlin into the " World Capital Germania ". The Second World War brought further destruction . After the rubble had been cleared, the St. Matthew Church on Matthäikirchplatz remained isolated , built from 1844 to 1846 as a three-aisled brick building by Friedrich August Stüler , restored in 1959/1960 by Jürgen Emmerich after severe war damage in the exterior and modernized inside.

The 1958 “Capital Berlin” competition led to the idea of ​​building a new cultural center in West Berlin on the edge of the zoo. Together with the historical center in the eastern part of the city, it should form the center of a future overall Berlin and be part of a "cultural band" running in an east-west direction. In 1959, the West Berlin House of Representatives decided to relocate the new Philharmonic building to the southern edge of the Great Zoo. The winning competition design by Hans Scharoun , which initially referred to a location on Bundesallee in Wilmersdorf , was not fundamentally revised. Only the development of the building completed in 1963 and the embedding of the adjoining components were adapted to the changed situation. Scharoun saw the Philharmonie as part of a landscaped urban complex with loosely grouped buildings and greenery, which should be an expression of a “democratic sense of community”. On the basis of an idea sketch by Scharoun from 1971, his long-time colleague Edgar Wisniewski designed the chamber music hall of the Philharmonic in 1979, which was carried out from 1984 to 1987. As early as 1979–1984, Wisniewski had built the Institute for Music Research with the Musical Instrument Museum to the north-east of the Philharmonie .

In the context of his victorious design for the State Library of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation (1963/1964), Hans Scharoun designed a landscape vision of the city for the Kulturforum: In front of the future museums on the west side, the forum was to become like a valley to a guest house of the Senate in the middle lower, only to be closed off to the east by the gently sloping architecture of the State Library. By building the library, the forum was also to be shielded from the then planned section of the Westtangente motorway , the route of which would have run at the rear of the library. The construction of the State Library began in 1967. After Scharoun's death in 1972, Wisniewski continued the work until it was completed in 1977 (opening: 1978). Between 1965 and 1968, independently of Scharoun's plans, the Neue Nationalgalerie by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was built south of the Philharmonie . Scharoun's urban planning concept was not implemented. In addition, the framework conditions changed fundamentally due to the discontinuation of the urban motorway planning and the multi-lane expansion of Potsdamer Straße , which is part of Bundesstraße 1 , which cuts the area up .

Since a competition in 1965/1966, in which 113 domestic and foreign architects took part, went without a satisfactory result, Rolf Gutbrod was commissioned to plan the museums in 1966 . His design provided for individual structures grouped around a courtyard and accessed through a central entrance, which should not compete with the Scharoun buildings. Due to strong criticism of the overall concept and of the applied arts museum , which was completed in 1985 , the planning was stopped. In his victorious contribution to the international appraisal process in 1983, Hans Hollein attempted to consolidate the structure of relationships through further physical structures and axial references, but his suggestion was not implemented.

In 1987, after a closer competition, the decision was made in favor of Heinz Hilmer and Christoph Sattler's design for the new building of the picture gallery , which was carried out from 1992 to 1998. The design of the landscape architects Valentien + Valentien won the design of the square in 1998 , but it was never fully implemented.

Due to the development of the area on Potsdamer Platz after German reunification (urban development competition 1991), the Kulturforum was in a completely different urban development context. In the meantime, the undeveloped open space in the middle of the cultural forum has been designed with a quincunx tree grove .

Situation since the 2000s

The Kulturforum has repeatedly been described as a negative example of modernist urban planning. Despite significant individual buildings such as the Neue Nationalgalerie and the Philharmonie , the character of a square or forum and an identity-creating townscape have not emerged. This is attributed to the spaciousness, the fragmentation of the area by the street layout, the monofunctionality, the flowing spatial boundaries and the fact that the existing buildings lack a thematic-formal connection.

The Berlin Senate Department for Urban Development also describes the current situation as unsatisfactory. The built reality does not correspond to the ideas associated with the term “cultural forum”. Essential parts of a landscape architecture concept from 1998 had not been completed, the sloping access to the picture gallery and the applied arts museum was questionable in terms of urban planning and function, and additional facilities such as shops, restaurants and cafes were missing.

The analysis of all circumstances led to the fact that in March 2004 the basics for the further development of the content of the cultural forum were formulated. After intensive public and professional discourse, the Berlin House of Representatives adopted the master plan on March 9, 2006, based on Scharoun's idea of ​​an urban landscape:

“The aim of the plan was therefore to qualify the scenic side - especially the connection to the zoo that Scharoun wanted. A structural addition should only be made by cautiously adding further objects [...]. "

- Senate Department for Urban Planning and Housing

In addition, on the periphery of the site, areas were designated for private construction projects, which should also serve to refinance the proposed conversion measures. When the planning was presented, however, it was clearly stated that the newly designed urban space would also be cut through by the busy Potsdamer Strasse.

Critics of the planning stated that the current state of the Kulturforum is worth preserving precisely because of its not uncontroversial history - because the unfinished Kulturforum in Berlin is a “completed monument”: “Even an empty center of the square makes sense,” writes Gabi Dolff- Bonekämper in the FAZ .

In 2009 and 2010, the Senate Administration revised the design with which the landscape architects Valentien + Valentien won the 1998 competition for the picture gallery. The draft was further developed together with the actors of the Kulturforum and has since formed the basis of the planning at the Kulturforum.

As a result of the planning of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation for a new museum building on the central open space, which was originally intended for Scharoun's guest house, which was started in 2015, the cultural forum has come back into the public eye. The planned building based on the design by the Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron (planned construction cost: 450 million euros) was also discussed controversially in view of the difficult urban situation. The development plan and the ongoing redesign of the open space at the Kulturforum have been modified accordingly for the new museum building.


Function rooms

Chamber music hall,
in the background left: Philharmonie,
right behind: Sony Center

Other facilities

View over the Kulturforum


  • Gabi Dolff-Bonekämper : The Berlin Cultural Forum: Architecture as a Medium of Political Conflict. In: Buildings and places as carriers of memory: The memory debate and the preservation of monuments. Edited by Hans-Rudolf Meier and Marion Wohlleben. Zurich: vdf Hochschulverlag AG at the ETH Zurich, 2000. (ID publications of the Institute for Monument Preservation at the ETH Zurich; Vol. 21). Pp. 133-143. ISBN 3-7281-2732-9 .
  • Gabi Dolff-Bonekämper: Kulturforum II - competing models in urban planning. Or: What happens if the building and the counter building are to be followed by a counter-counter building? In: Hans-Rudolf Meier (ed.). Monuments in the city - the city as a monument: Problems and opportunities for urban redevelopment. Dresden: tudpress; 2006. (Series of publications on urban development and monument preservation, Vol. 1). Pp. 155-162. ISBN 3-938863-43-9 .
  • Michael Eissenhauer : Look at this place. In: Welt Kompakt , February 12, 2016.
  • Anke Fischer: The Berlin Cultural Forum. ISR Arbeitshefte 69. Berlin 2007, 105 pp. ISBN 978-3-7983-2067-3 .
  • Hans Stimmann : Future of the Kulturforum. From the Tiergarten district to the museum of the 20th century. Berlin 2020. ISBN 978-3-86922-488-6 .
  • Jürgen Tietz: Philharmonie Kulturforum Berlin. Stadtwandel Verlag. Berlin 2001, 32 pp. ISBN 978-3-933743-56-5 .

Web links

Commons : Kulturforum (Berlin)  - Collection of images

Individual evidence

  1. Senate Department for Urban Development and Housing: Kulturforum. Result of the competition. In: berlin.de. Retrieved November 6, 2019 .
  2. ^ Kulturforum / Land Berlin. Retrieved November 6, 2019 .
  3. Kulturforum. Master plan 2005/06
  4. Gabi Dolff-Bonekämper: Even an empty center of the square makes sense . In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung , No. 301, December 27, 2005, p. 36
  5. ^ Senate Department for Urban Development and the Environment: Kulturforum Berlin. Current plans. June 2014, accessed November 6, 2019 .
  6. Bragging with numbers: The Berlin Cultural Forum.
  7. The largest Aldi in Berlin . In: Deutschlandradio Kultur , October 27, 2016.
  8. Senate approves development plan for Kulturforum - Museum of the 20th Century. January 16, 2018, accessed November 6, 2019 .

Coordinates: 52 ° 30 ′ 30 ″  N , 13 ° 22 ′ 4 ″  E