Berlin Architecture: Paradise for Building-Spotters

source: Visit Berlin

Ask a Berlin architect about the city’s buildings and they will drone on and on about Karl Friedrich Schinkel, the city’s great Prussian builder who designed the Alte Museum on Museum Island and the Neue Wache on the Unter den Linden avenue. In fact they love Schinkel so much that it seems as if just about every architect for 50 years after him tried to copy his style.

Ask a foreign architect about Berlin, however, and the odds are they will not be raving about Schinkel but either praising or moaning about the modern buildings that have gone up over the past two decades under the guidance of Norman Foster, Daniel Libeskind or David Chipperfield. Whether you’re keen to seen 19th century classics or those modern buildings which aspire to the same, Berlin is your city.

The Jewish Museum

Berlin’s Jewish Museum is often visited as much for the building itself as for its exhibits. The building is signature Libeskind and was chosen out of  165 submissions, partly because of how he tried to use the building itself to convey a message. The building has no real entrance, no normal windows and with a clad exterior jumps right out. The voids within it are meant to represent the loss of the holocaust, while different paths lead you along different lines of experience that represent the differences between those who fled Germany and the holocaust and those who were trapped by it.

The Neues Museum

David Chipperfield’s skilled  reworking of this museum combines the original structure (an impressive enough building in its own right, even if it was riddled with some of the bad taste of the age – fake Egyptian rooms, for instance) with a new look. It also does not paper over the destruction wrought during the war, when the building was badly bombed. Many Berlin residents wanted the building restored to what it had been, yet Chipperfield argued forcefully that the museum and building should not remain static and should encompass some of the old along with the changes.

Frank O. Gehry’s DZ Bank

This building, on the edge of Pariser Platz could easily be overlooked as it is in the metaphorical shadow of the Brandenburg Gate. Yet its façade hides a real gem and masterpiece. Inside it has a giant fish and an amazing lattice roof that lets the sun shine in.

The Reichstag

This has become perhaps the best known of Berlin’s new buildings and it still generates great controversy. The Reichstag, which stood unoccupied and crumbling throughout the period of Berlin’s division, was rebuilt by Lord Norman Foster as the new seat of Germany’s democracy. His major, and most controversial, addition was a glass glass cupola on the roof. This is open to the public, although you may need to queue for hours in the busy months.

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