Planning and Reality
“The Kulturforum is […] not an accident. It suffers from a systematic birth disease, the same as Potsdamer Platz […] and the government quarter at the Reichstag […]. The disease is the totalitarian planning in large complexes, without an underlying parcellular structure that could connect what is put there with the rest of the city and functionally break it up – a planning without cultural moderation, without memory and without any minimal scope for self-organization. In fact, it is Speer’s demolition of parcellular civic neighborhoods that underlies this contemporary modern immoderation.” (Dieter Hoffmann-Axthelm 1992)
The Kulturforum houses a unique collection of high-ranking institutions of music, art, and science, without having become their home in the deeper sense. Nothing of the interdisciplinary networking of the houses in research and in the exhibition, business is perceptible in the exterior space – the Kulturforum is a forum without a cultural business. There is nothing inviting, beautiful or attractive to encourage visitors to stay a while. In the past 40 years, architecture and urban planning were always supposed to solve the structural problems of the Kulturforum that had arisen from misguided traffic planning and monofunctional use. Neither the postmodern mannerism of Hans Hollein nor the neoliberal agenda of the master plan proved to be viable solutions. Now the urbanistic completion of the Kulturforum is to be achieved with the extension building for the Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery).
The Museum of the 20th Century
In October 2016, the Swiss architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron won the competition for the new building of the Museum of the 20th Century. The design responds with its simplicity to the historical lines of development and connects the ensemble of autistic solitaires. With the archetypal house form – popularly known as “barn” – a connection between the abstraction of Mies and the organic architecture of Scharoun is to be established without any formal rivalry. The two central axes inside the building are intended to open up and connect the urban quarter. The architects aim to transform the Kulturforum and make it a piece of the city again. They stand for an urban concept of density and proximity, with connecting paths and with a high quality of stay in the entire area. The extension building for the Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) is intended to complete the Kulturforum in terms of urban planning.
Participation and Remembrance
The Kulturforum is not Berlin. It offers no opportunities for individual development. The Kulturforum is a neighborhood without citizens who initiate developments. The residents have no mandate and no means to take care of the outdoor space. For the responsible authorities, the Kulturforum is one neighborhood among many that need their attention. Apparently, the political decision-makers assumed that the site would develop into a thriving cultural quarter with a quality of stay even without gastronomic offerings and a coordinating site management. The inhospitability of the Kulturforum is also rooted in the lack of care for its visitors. It must finally become a neighborhood for people. It needs reconciliation with its disturbing history. The German catastrophe of the 20th century has left deep traces here. It is time for a scientific reappraisal and appropriate remembrance.