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Berlin Public Library

Almost a quarter century after the fall of Wall, Berlin has finally found the courage to invest into an extraordinary contemporary building. In this sense, the new central library not only increases Berlin’s attractiveness on a national and international level, but also announces a paradigm shift. After a decade of “critical reconstruction”, in which the architectural object disappeared in an almost neo-baroque urbanism, and after a decade marked by a political denial manifesting itself in temporary constructions, soft renovations and the filling-in of empty in-between spaces, Berlin looks back at its great architectural tradition that not only informed the surrounding neighborhoods, but as well the city and the country. From Schinkel’s museums and its disciples to the Mies’ National Gallery, from the expressionist buildings of Poelzig, Scharoun to the Jewish Museum, the Capital is characterized by extraordinary buildings that turned Berlin into a modern city. Our project aims to address this challenge, without adopting a formal arrogance that seems to dominate the current architectural production.

The area around the legendary Tempelhof airport had been closed a few years ago and will be transformed in the following years. In the north, it is connected with the Kreuzberg district, to the east with the upcoming Neukölln district, to the west with a garden city, and is separated from the neighborhoods in the south by the highway and the rails of the Ringbahn.

Our proposition does not function as an entrance gate leading into the city, as it would give the inhabitants of the southern suburbs a feeling of "being left out" of the city. Thus, in homage to Schinkel’s projects, our building has four identical facades, mounted on a base, offering a panoramic view in all directions.

The library project draws from the dichotomy between the impact of a pure object and an extremely complex program; resulting in a set of heterogeneous towers within a homogeneous envelope. Each discipline (six in total: art, science, law …) has its own book tower, based on the discipline it represents, and is connected via the ground floor with the remaining towers. This common floor operates as an actual space for encounter and communication between visitors while representing symbolically a link between the disciplines. The set of towers is protected by a wood-glass structure offering an internal climate and multiple views on the city. During the day, the building will be seen from the city as a homogeneous object, while in the night, when it is all illuminated, it analogues with San Gimignano.

Architects: Florian Hertweck & Pierre Alexandre Devernois
Project Team: F. Hertweck, P. A. Devernois, Nathalie Kerschen
Location: Berlin Tempelhof
Surface: 70 000 m²
Date: 2013
Structural engineer: Bollinger Grohmann, Paris - Klaas de Rycke
Landscape Architect: Office for Landscape Morphology, Paris - Philippe Coignet
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