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Allianz Arena in Munich
© von Gerkan, Marg and Partners
Architecture in Germany

May 23, 2008

Germany has a thriving architectural scene, which has made its mark with the quality of its designs and high technical standards. The scene includes various big names on the German and international stage as well as up-and-coming German architectural firms, whose innovative designs are winning ever more attention both at home and abroad.

Chancellor's Office / © Federal Foreign Office
© Federal Foreign Office

Like many other creative industries, architecture has made Berlin one of its main centres following reunification. If you want to see top international architecture, the capital is the place to be. "It takes 500 years to build a city. But Berlin is only giving us five. It's as if a child were to be born only two months after its conception", as Renzo Piano put it, an architect who worked on one of the most prestigious projects in reunified Germany – the redevelopment of Potsdamer Platz. The year 1989 is not just a political watershed, but also an architectural one. Almost overnight, we had to decide what face the new Germany should have. Berlin was the city that responded to this challenge in the most eclectic and creative way. Nowhere else in Germany are more world-class national and international architects at work. Berlin has reinvented itself along the banks of the Spree, in the Government district, around Unter den Linden and in particular at Potsdamer Platz. At the same time the architectural masterpieces of the past have been preserved, as can be seen on the magnificent Museum Island. The city is also facing up to the darker chapters of German history, not least with the opening of the Holocaust Memorial.

Potsdamer Platz Berlin / Frankfurt Airport
© dpa-Report                                                                                                         © von Gerkan, Marg and Partners

The German architectural scene is above all setting standards on green issues, and is concerned with improving the environmental quality of built-up areas. The Federal Foundation for Architectural Culture was established in 2007, in part with a view to spreading the news both in Germany and elsewhere about German architectural achievements. "Ecological building" is one of the pioneering directions to be pursued by Germans. It is not least because of its high technical construction standards that Germany is considered a trailblazer when it comes to "ecological" architecture. By way of example, the faculty of architecture at Darmstadt Technical University won the international "Solar Decathlon" competition organized by the relevant US ministry. Stefan Behnisch is another outstanding representative of the sustainable architecture movement. His ecological concepts have proven highly successful, above all in the USA.

A huge aquarium in Radisson SAS Hotel in Berlin
© Federal Foreign Office

Modern German architecture can no longer be viewed in isolation, but only in the context of developments on the international architectural scene. Several different movements dominate at present. The increased use of computers at the design stage has inspired a kind of neo-expressionism. Individually formed and sculptured structures are being created, which lend their interiors an artistic feel. Examples of this type of architecture in Germany include the extension to the Jewish Museum in Berlin designed by Daniel Liebeskind, Norman Foster's Reichstag dome and the Gehry buildings on the waterfront in Düsseldorf. Another movement that rivals this multiplicity of forms is minimalism. With its use of intentionally reduced formal language, minimalism builds on the Bauhaus tradition, as exemplified by the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin, designed by Mies van der Rohe. The new central railway station in Berlin designed by Meinhard von Gerkan is a fine illustration of this technically-oriented functionalism. The new Foreign Office extension on Werderscher Markt, built by Müller and Reimann, is also typical of minimalism. The "traditionalists", such as Hans Kollhoff and Paul Kahlfeldt, who seek to create a kind of synthetic tradition and continuity, are also well represented in Berlin.

Leipzig Trade Fair
© von Gerkan, Marg and Partners

For people interested in the subject, the German Architecture Museum in Frankfurt has a fascinating permanent exhibition that offers visitors an unusual look at modern architecture, architectural history and urban planning. The German contribution to the VII International Architecture Biennale (2007) in Sao Paolo, Brazil, will also be on display there from 7 June to 9 November 2008. This exhibition, entitled "Ready for Take-Off", introduces a new generation of German architects and engineers, who seek success on the international scene with their innovative projects and designs.

Multi Storey parking place at Hamburg Airport
                                                                                                                                  © von Gerkan, Marg and Partners



© Federal Foreign Office
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