Berlin’s Kulturforum is located between the Tiergarten and the Landwehrkanal near the former boundary between West and East Berlin at Potsdamer Platz. Its individual components were added in stages after 1960, the first of which was Hans Scharoun’s Philharmonic. With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the Kulturforum was now situated in the very center of the reunified city.
The idea of the Kulturforum goes back to the almost complete destruction of the Tiergarten District during World War II. In conjunction with the “Capital Berlin” competition (1957/58), Hans Scharoun proposed the idea of linking the Tiergarten area to the Museum Island in the center of town through a “spiritual ribbon of culture.” This was made infeasible by the division of the city and the building of the Berlin Wall (1961). Berlin’s government decided to create separate cultural center on a site on the outskirts of West Berlin in the area around St. Matthew's Church but near the center of a united city.
The placement of the Philharmonic and the New National Gallery (1965–68 by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe) at the northern and southern most points of the Kulturforum, respectively, triggered a debate concerning the configuration of the rest that has not yet been fully resolved. In connection with his plans for the State Library (1963–64), he sketched out a landscaped urban vision that later plans frequently referenced but which in part was counteracted by the other buildings constructed there. Edgar Wiesniewski planned the Musical Instrument Museum (1979–84) based on Scharoun’s own designs and finally the overly large Chamber Music Hall (1984–87), which is attached to the Philharmonic by way of a common foyer. Rolf Gutbrod, who had already won a competition to erect new structures for Berlin’s State Museums in 1966, completed the Museum of Decorative Arts (Kunstgewerbemuseum) in 1985 and—after Reunification caused a reassessment of the plans for the Kulturforum—designed the Art Library (1992, with Hiller & Sattler) and the Drawings and Prints Gallery (Kupferstichkabinett) (1994). Hiller & Sattler likewise won the 1987 competition to building the Picture Gallery (1992–1998).
Since 2015, the Kulturforum has become a construction site once again, and it is expected to remain one until the mid-2020s. At the moment, the firm of David Chipperfield Architects is renovating the New National Gallery; its reopening is scheduled to take place in 2020. Designed by Herzog & de Meuron, the Museum of the Twentieth Century is being built on the adjacent property to the north and will be connected to the New National Gallery via a subterranean tunnel. This final construction phase of the Kulturforum will also be accompanied by a new landscape concept. [KS/OH/HY]
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