Beyond the Brandenburg Gate, the Berliner Dom and the grand buildings of the Unter den Linden, Berlin plays host to some striking examples of modernist architecture.
Europe is home to some of the finest standout buildings and landmarks around the world, with Renaissance, Baroque and Gothic structures amongst the must-see monuments and structures across the Continent. Increasingly however, Europe is becoming better known for its eclectic examples of distinctive, modern architecture, with Berlin in particular renowned for its more unusual buildings and landmarks. Here’s a little look at some of the German capital’s finest contemporary structures.
Considered by many the icon of a modern, unified Germany and one of the German capital’s top attractions, Berlin’s Reichstag building plays host to the German Bundestag, the national Parliament of Germany. Partially burnt down in 1933, a catalyst say some for the rise of the Nazi Movement in Germany, the Reichstag was transformed by world-famous British architect, Sir Norman Foster, with the addition of its undisputed centrepiece – its impressive glass cupola. Today, the dome offers visitors 360-degree views over Berlin’s ever-growing skyline from its walk-around platforms, in addition to a viewing passage that funnels directly down into the parliamentary chambers. Entrance to the Reichstag Building’s cupola is free but must be booked in advance.
The Bundeskanzleramt meanwhile is one of Berlin’s newest parliamentary structures and certainly ranks amongst its most striking. Situated a stone’s throw from the Reichstag, this building, serving as the Chancellery, cost over 230 million euros to create and its design is described as both Expressionist and Oriental in style, with freestanding white pillars topped with pear trees. Unfortunately entrance is restricted to government officials only, so visitors will have to content themselves with a photo opportunity of the Bundeskanzleramt’s exterior.
Regarded as one of Berlin’s most exciting examples of contemporary architecture, the zig-zag structure of the Jewish Museum plays host to one of the German capital’s most important cultural institutions. Designed by American architect Daniel Libeskind, this almost windowless structure is said to resemble a shattered Star of David. As well as the windowless Holocaust Tower, the Garden of Exile contains pillars set on a slope, reflecting the isolation and disorientation of life in exile. The museum opened in 2001 and recounts the history of German Jews.
Continuing the theme of Jewish heritage and homage, situated just a short distance from the Brandenburg Gate and the ruins of Hitler’s bunker, the Holocaust Memorial is a rather sombre yet striking ensemble comprising 2,711 concrete pillars of varying height, shape and size dedicated to preserving the memory of those lost to the Holocaust, some six million Jews in total. Officially known as the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, this memorial was unveiled in May 2005, 60 years after the fall of the Nazi regime and the end of the Second World War.
A short hop from the Holocaust Memorial on Pariser Platz is the DZ Bank building, designed no less by Frank O. Gehry, an architect of international renown. Although not open to the public, no round-up of modernist architecture in Berlin would be complete without making reference to this intriguing building, so try and catch a glimpse if you can of the curved glass atrium roof and the large sculpted shell set within its foyer, said in fact to be a conference room.
One of Berlin’s most famous landmarks meanwhile, the Kaiser Wilheim Memorial Church is renowned for its eye-catching and modern octagonal tower built alongside and seemingly at architectural odds with the original ecclesiastical structure which was damaged in 1943 by British bombers. Built using blue glass bricks, this is a thoroughly unique and atmospheric building and worth visiting if you’re anywhere near the shopping hotspots of Kurfürstendamm or the Europa shopping centre and fancy a break from your retail therapy.
Situated in Tiergarten, the House of World Cultures was constructed in 1957 by the American architect, Hugh Stubbins, contributing to the International Architecture Exhibition. Co-funded by the US government, the Haus der Kulturen der Welt is symbolic of and testament to German-American friendship and today serves as a venue for theatrical and dance performances, literary readings, film presentations, exhibitions and conferences. Likened to a ‘pregnant oyster’ by local residents, the House of World Cultures is most recognised for its curved roof. It also plays host to a 42-metre-high carillon, gifted to the city of Berlin by Daimler-Benz for its 750th anniversary. The largest of its kind in Europe, the carillon contains 68 bells which are rung every Sunday over the summer.
Last but not least, another Tiergarten architectural attraction is the Berlin Philharmonie, home to the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and acclaimed as much for its architecture prowess as it is for its acoustic greatness. Built to replace the former philharmonic building which was destroyed during World War II, the main concert hall is shaped like a pentagon with the orchestra situated in the middle. It’s also renowned for its distinctive vaulted gold roof.