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  • Karin Gambaracci

Between Hans Scharoun and Mies van der Rohe

It is a common experience that upon arrival in Berlin, the first time, one feels small little ones in front of this huge city, full of a thousand corners all different. You will not be able to grasp its colors, to describe its soul. And yet, it is natural that already after a short time one would not leave, and for nothing in the world, one's Berlin nest. Because Berlin does have a soul, and we love it: it is the freedom of diversity.

In Berlin you can meet the workaholic politician and the New Yorker musician, the Turkish taxi driver who demands that his daughter marry a Muslim, and the manager on a bicycle who only shops at the organic supermarket. Architecturally, this energy of opposite poles manifests itself wonderfully at the Kulturforum near Potsdamer Platz.

On the one hand, for example, you find the absolute aesthetic quest of Mies van der Rohe's Neue Nationalgalerie. A masterpiece of glass and steel that for him represented the ideal of "universal space" and did not need to take into account the practical function of the building, quite the contrary: the gallery's artworks are displayed mostly in the basement and there are considerable space problems. But that's okay, because we are talking about Mies van der Rohe, a true legend of modernism.

A few meters away, however, you find the Philharmonic. Here we are talking about Hans Scharoun, an architect who goes all out to build around the function of the building. And in order to "focus the audience's attention on the music as much as possible" (in the words of the great conductor Herbert von Karajan), in fact, Scharoun created a spatiality of three pentagons that intertwine with each other, so that no spectator is ever more than 30 meters from the stage. An incredible building of "organic architecture" that inspired Frank Gehry and Renzo Piano, among many others.

This multifacetedness characterizes the city without ever seeming incoherent, and we like so much to think that after all the past atrocities, Berlin has been able to rekindle that truly open and tolerant spirit that already distinguished it in the days of the Edict of Potsdam... 

Utopia? Perhaps. But Berlin has much that is utopian.


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