Kulturforum, Berlin


Berlin, Germany | 2016 | Competition entry

The decision to locate the Museum of the 20th Century on Potsdamer Strasse’s open area creates the opportunity for it to become a gateway project to the Kulturforum and thus its museums, galleries, concert halls, library and institutes.

Gustafson Porter + Bowman's proposals for an international competition in 2016 conceive the museum's ground floor and external landscape interacting to create an inviting surface for meeting and orientation. This provides the Kulturforum with a meaningful living room space where Berliners and tourists can interact. By placing two entrances on Potsdamer Strasse, the design of the new Museum acknowledges the main source of pedestrian flows to the site, whether by metro, bus, vehicle, or foot. 

From Potsdamer Platz to the north, and Potsdamer Strasse to the south, pedestrians are guided off the street into the spacious museum foyer by a distinctive carpet of warm gold stone to echo the roofscapes of Scharoun's State Library and Philharmonie. Meanwhile, the museum’s form invites visitors to embark on an upward journey of discovery to inward views of galleries and exhibits and framed external views of the surrounding architectural masterpieces, finishing with balcony views of the city’s skyline.

The centerpiece of the ‘living room’ is a 30m diameter water scrim (5mm of water over a dark gunmetal granite) creating a mirror to the surrounding environment of St Matthew's Kirche and surrounding buildings. The water appears and disappears mysteriously over a seemingly flat surface (a gentle 1:50 slope). It can receive a range of lighting effects at night and when switched off marks a multi-functional space for events and installations. 

The space is framed on one side by the museum’s café and restaurant terraces, the terrace that surrounds the monumental plane tree and on the other side by a plantation of multi-stemmed trees such as silver birch. The view from the Tiergarten and Herbert von Karajan Strasse will be matched by the horizontal lines of the water feature’s reflections. Grass lawns and the gold carpet that marks the new museum’s entrance and St Matthew's Kirche is placed on a plane of pure white stone to echo its bright interior.

The view towards the piazzetta from Potsdamer Strasse across Scharoun Platz is preserved, however its potential as an events space is replaced by the northerly aspect and enclosed form of Matthaikircheplatz. This is sheltered from the traffic noise of Potsdamer Strasse. Scharoun Platz with its bus stops, potential for drop off and convergence of pedestrian routes should be seen as the Kulturforum's key access space and not mixed with the function of presenting occasional elaborate events.

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