Berlin’s new cultural heart
Cultural stronghold and historical centre
Today, Berlin belongs to one of Europe’s leading centres of culture – and its heart beats strongest directly in the old historical city. For centuries, Berlin’s city centre has been home to a unique concentration of outstanding cultural institutions constructed on the ground where the medieval city of Berlin was founded. The modern Mitte district does not just boast the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Museum Island, but also two opera houses and six major theatres, as well as museums, innumerable galleries and arts venues. Now, this cultural ensemble is gaining a new dimension with many new major cultural projects located here, just a few minutes’ walk apart. You can find an overview of the main on-going and planned landmark projects below.
Overview of the main on-going and planned landmark projects
March 2017: Pierre Boulez-Saal
• Opened in March 2017, the new Pierre Boulez Saal is a major international concert hall.
• Initiated by Daniel Barenboim, General Music Director of the Staatsoper Unter den Linden, the hall was developed by American architect Frank Gehry and with globally acclaimed acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota creating the impeccable acoustics.
• Lined with light Canadian cedarwood, the Pierre-Boulez-Saal offers a flexible design allowing the auditorium’s seating as well as the stage to be arranged in various constellations for a wide spectrum of events.
• The concert hall is also the public face of the Barenboim-Said Akademie, not only serving as its home venue but also a space where young musicians from conflict zones in the Middle East can practice under the guidance of their mentors.
• The elliptically-shaped hall regularly presents concerts and chamber music, with a range of works from contemporary composers to the classic Romantic repertoire. In addition, the Pierre-Boulez-Saal will provide a venue for lectures and conferences
October 2017: Staatsoper Unter den Linden
• The Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Berlin’s first opera house, is the city’s most important heritage theatre building. Designed by architect Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff and built from 1741 to 1743, this neo-classical structure was Germany’s first free-standing opera house and, at the time, the largest in Europe.
• In a seven-year programme concluding in 2017, the Staatsoper has now been extensively renovated and refurbished. Aside from installing completely new stage equipment, the aim was to add one second to the auditorium’s reverberation time – at the express wish of Daniel Barenboim, General Music Director of the Staatsoper Unter den Linden.
• To make this wish a reality, the ceiling of the auditorium was raised significantly to create space for a ‘reverberation gallery’.
• The reopening of the Staatsoper Unter den Linden is celebrated on 3 October 2017 with a performance of Robert Schumann’s Scenes from Goethe’s Faust
• The regular programme including premières, new productions and classic revivals is launched on 7 December 2017, the 275th anniversary of the opening of the opera house.
• Now the refurbished Staatsoper Unter den Linden not only boasts world-class acoustics, but in terms of stage technologies alone is one of the world’s leading opera houses.
April 2018: Temporary Pergamon Altar exhibition
• With the Pergamon Museum restoration programme ongoing, the impressive Pergamon Altar is closed for visitors until 2019. Constructed specially to house the Altar, the Pergamon Museum is Berlin’s most popular museum, attracting over one million visitors a year. The restoration work for the entire project, which began in 2013, is presently scheduled for completion in 2025–2026.
• From 2019, visitors can view part of the Pergamon Altar’s treasures at a temporary exhibition building directly opposite Museum Island. The exhibits are to include sculptural elements such as, for example, the Telephos frieze and statues in honour of kings and queens, and as well as some sculptural works from the roof of the altar.
• Visitors can also enjoy a virtual 3D tour of the Altar based on the latest scholarly research, as well as a newly created fascinating 360-degree panorama by artist Yadegar Asisi. In cooperation with the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Asisi’s 360-degree panorama shows the ancient city of Pergamon in around 129 BC.
• The temporary exhibition building will remain open until the Pergamon Altar’s restoration is completed in 2023.
September 2018: First exhibitions in the new Futurium
• The Futurium – Berlins centre for shaping the future – is open to all those who are interested in the future and want to take an active role in shaping it.
• The unique building hosts an exhibition with vivid scenarios, an interactive hands-on laboratory, and an event forum as a place of dialogue all under one roof. It offers space for exciting discussions, debate, exploration, creative workshops and visionary ideas.
• In spring 2018 The Futurium will host first temporary exhibitions, before opening up to visitors for good in September 2019.
Ende 2018: James-Simon-Galerie
• The James-Simon-Galerie, designed by British architect David Chipperfield, forms the Museum Island’s new central entrance and visitor centre. The new visitor centre and entrance is constructed on a site which, well into the 1930s, was home to Berlin’s Central Customs Office.
• Scheduled to open in late 2019, the impressive James-Simon-Galerie will house the central ticket office for all five museums on the Museum Island, as well as cloakrooms and facilities, cafés and a museum shop.
• In addition, there will be dedicated rooms for special exhibitions and a lecture hall. In its function as a central entrance, the James-Simon-Galerie is also the starting point of the planned Archäologische Promenade (Archaeological Promenade) leading to the separate museums. The design is also envisaged as providing a public meeting point in Berlin’s historical centre.
2019: Berlin Palace and Humboldt Forum
• The Humboldt Forum in the Berlin Palace, now reconstructed and originally home to the Prussian Hohenzollern rulers, creates a new cultural and museum district in the heart of the city.
• Inspired by Alexander von Humboldt’s universal idea, the Humboldt Forum forges a link between art, culture and science and provides a venue for a dialogue of world cultures.
• In future, the Humboldt Forum will house the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation (SPK) museums of ethnology, Asian art and non-European cultures previously located in the Dahlem Museum Centre.
• The first floor of the Humboldt Forum is to show a Berlin exhibition, coproduced by Kulturprojekte Berlin and the Stadtmuseum Berlin Foundation, exploring the exchange between Berlin and the world. In the run-up to the Humboldt Forum opening, exhibitions are already being presented in the Humboldt Box and on the Museum Island.
2019: Start of construction House of One
• The House of One is a planned interfaith centre and place of worship at Petriplatz square for followers of three major monotheistic world religions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
• This remarkable structure, financed by crowdfunding, is being designed by the Berlin architectural office Kühn Malvezzi. The House of One is to be built on the foundations of the churches at Petriplatz square, not just at the heart of the city on an island in the River Spree, but also the founding site of the medieval city of Berlin-Cölln.
• Scheduled to open in 2019, the House of One is a globally unique project, aiming to create a place for encounters where the coexistence of religions is lived peacefully.
2019: Monument to Freedom and Unity
• The National Monument to Freedom and Unity is planned to commemorate the Peaceful Revolution and German reunification in the years between 1989 and 1999. The competition for the monument was won by Milla & Partner in Stuttgart with a design created in cooperation with choreographer Sasha Waltz.
• Their aesthetically ambitious structure envisages a bowl-shaped platform, a social sculpture that visitors can not only stand on, but actually set in motion by acting together as a group.
• The Monument is scheduled to be opened in 2019 to mark the 30th anniversary celebrations of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The site has already been chosen – on the Schloßfreiheit square at the Berlin Palace, where the Monument will be constructed on the existing plinth of the former equestrian statue of the German Emperor Wilhelm I.
2020: Start of construction Bauakademie
• Between 1832 and 1835, Karl Friedrich Schinkel, probably Berlin’s best-known architect, was commissioned to construct a Bauakademie to house a school of architecture to train master builders. Present plans now envisage rebuilding Schinkel’s original structure, which was torn down in 1962.
• As yet, though, no final decision has been taken on whether to carefully follow the historical plans or adapt them to create a more modern building. The use of the building is also similarly open, with suggestions ranging from a museum of architecture to an architectural forum dedicated to sustainable building and urban planning.
• A competition launched in early September 2017 aims to promote a discussion of the concept and ideas for the project, and is scheduled to reach a decision by spring 2018. Going forward, the plan is to hold an architectural competition from mid-2018, with the results ready to be presented in spring 2019.
• The Flussbad project aims to establish a large river swimming pool along a stretch of water from the Humboldt Forum to the Bode Museum.
• The project includes an extensive water purification system and ecological plant filters, as well as sets of open steps leading to the water.
• The result would be the Flussbad pool located in Berlin’s historic city centre where the Spree Canal runs past the Museum Island. Initiated by the non-profit Flussbad Berlin association, the project is supported by the Berlin Senate and the Federal Government.
• With Berlin’s Mitte district developing into the showpiece for the inner city, the Flussbad river pool, scheduled to open in 2025, would provide an attractive, lively public urban space for everyone to enjoy in the heart of the city.
Ende 2019: Baubeginn Museum der Moderne
• Das Museum der Moderne wird die weltweit einmalige Sammlung der Nationalgalerie zeigen.
• Die Konzeption und der Museumsbau werden von dem Schweizer Architektenbüro Herzog & de Meuron ausgeführt, die bereits die Elbphilharmonie umsetzten.
• Der erste Spatenstich wird momentan auf Ende 2019 datiert. Die einstige Fertigstellung in 2021 wird nun mit Mitte der 2020er Jahre angegeben.
Old house, new splendour: the reopening of the Staatsoper
After seven years’ restoration work, Staatsoper reopened its historic building on Unter den Linden with a gala celebration on 3 October 2017. When does the first season start in the new house? When was the building erected and why did it require restoration?
We have compiled the most important information and background about Berlin’s oldest opera house.
Research text: Berlin’s new cultural centre
Which construction projects besides the Staatsoper have already opened? Which are coming next? What will they deliver? We have assembled the details for you in our research text about Berlin’s new cultural centre.