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Longing for Unity

St. Matthew’s and Hans Hollein’s master plan

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Longing for Unity

St. Matthew’s and Hans Hollein’s master plan

The Kulturforum as an ensemble of architectural icons posed challenges to the idea of the Forum from the very beginning: How could an ensemble of solitaires also grow together into a larger whole in terms of urban planning?

With the help of so-called “master plans,” several attempts have been made since the 1970s to connect the architectural solitaires. One of the best known is the master plan by Viennese architect Hans Hollein, who developed the vision of a cultural forum united by canals and individual additional buildings (1986). In the middle of it all is St. Matthew’s Church, which Hollein’s designs for a “City Monastery” and a “Bible Tower” unexpectedly placed in a central position in the Kulturforum.

St. Matthew’s parish and the Protestant regional church were somewhat unprepared for this new central function. The Berlin Evangelical Church commented on the plans as an “interesting proposal by the Berlin Senate” and subsequently tried to develop its own concepts for the use of the planned city monastery.

Nothing came of the plans. Shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the plans for Hollein’s design were discontinued by the Senate as absurd and costly. The idea of a unified Kulturforum remained utopia. The construction of the “Museum of the 20th Century” opens a new chapter in this debate.


Model of Hans Hollein’s master plan – at the center, St. Matthew’s Church with “Bible Tower” to the north of the church and “Citykloster” (monastery) to the east.

© Berlinische Galerie


Hans Hollein’s design is harshly criticized – especially his focus on St. Matthew’s Church: all the main axes in the central area of the Kulturforum relate to it. The Bible Tower, the “House of the Church” and the colonnade turn the square into a forum with a sacral character, exaggerated by the reference to the “Byzantine” architecture of the church of the 19th century by means of Hollein’s Italianizing quotations.

© Berliner Tagesspiegel, 3. November 1984


Draft functional scheme “St. Matthew’s Center”, first floor, 22.01.1986. Church institutions are confronted by Hans Hollein’s plan with a cultural offer that can hardly be filled in terms of content and economy. After the failure of the “Citykloster” (monastery) plans, the regional church tries to fill the planned cubature next to the church as the “St. Matthew’s Center”.

© Evangelisches Landeskirchliches Archiv, 2021