In the 1990’s, just after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Potsdamer Platz was a symbol of construction and harmonious growth of both sides of Berlin. There was at the time a long debate about the different possibilities for the future of the Potsdamer Platz. The three skyscrapers of today, in a very interesting place on a urbanistic point of view, create one of the most important gates of Berlin, direct for the new built area. The Sony Forum for example became famous for its technical and innovative solutions.
The designs are the results of a big contest: “Potsdamer Plaz – Leipziger Platz”, opened in 1991. Sixteen architecture studios from all over the world were invited to participate to this contest. The maintheme was the construction of a various uses area: commercial, for freetime, cultural, residential and for offices; following a model of urbanism already used in Berlin since the 1980’s.
In the new center, the idea was to avoid the mono-function and to guarantee the use of the spaces around the clock. A lot of people followed the contest, it was actually a unique opportunity: design a whole suburb in the heart of a metropolis. This created a link also with the past, with the reputation of the Potsdamer Platz of the 1920’s – which was the most visited place of entertainment of all Europe.
The only buildings in this area that resisted to the World War II were the Weinhaus Huth and some parts of Grandhotel Esplanade. Some big investitors, especially Daimler-Benz, decided to insert themselves in this suburb already in 1989, a little bit before the fall of the Berlin Wall. According to the importance of the contest in 1991, the decision is taken to realize the design done by the studio Hilmer&Sattler. On the basis of their ideas, in 1992 Daimler Chrysler AG charged 14 studios to design the details of the suburb. The contest was won by architects Renzo Piano and Christoph Kohlbecker.
The design of each part of the suburb was in charge various architects: Hans Kollhof, Ulrike Lauber and Wolfren Wohr, Rafael Moneo, Richards Rogers, Arata Isozaki and Hilmer&Sattler, who adapted themselves to the net of existing elements to add some new.
The Sony lot, separated from the previous lot by the Potsdamer Strasse, was under the hand of the studio Murphy/Jahn.
From the Berlin “building yard”, the Potsdamer Platz seem to became the main point, through its buildings, for freetime, culture, services and housing: a sort of big suburb which, with its streets and squares, creates a convincing scenario for the new urbanism of Berlin. A design that, through its atmosphere, proposes a urban solution without the idea of monumentality often founded in the re-built cities, and neither the idea of a just commercial city financed by big corporations.
We can say that the design of the whole area wanted to be saw as the new version of the typical Berlin building with internal courtyard, this time with large glass facades, put next to the brick buildings.
All these elements highlight the presence in the same context of different functions – a sweet melting pot, essential for today’s urban life.
by Jean-Baptiste Hurstel