Distinctly Berlin – Rogers contribution to the Potsdamer Platz

by Jason Hooy

The buildings that inhabit everyday life, whether they are business, residential, or cultural, expound the social auras of a city, as well as the life within a city. What’s special about each city is the design and shapes the buildings pronounce. They serve as a reflection of the people within the city, those that use them, and those who live within them, and sometimes, awe at them. Berlin is one of the largest cultural centers in the world. Therefore, it remains paramount that as such a large city as the capital of Germany, Berlin requires a global image. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, construction, reconstruction, and restoration riddled Berlin. One important area in particular, Potsdamer Platz, was in question. Bound as a tourist attraction, planners saw it important for a rather unified, albeit eclectic selection of designs to showcase and build around. As such, architects were set to potentially over-encumbering tasks. One project in the Daimler Chrysler Areal, the Büro- und Geschäftshaus Linkstraße 2-4 was especially exemplary of the new direction in the city center of Berlin.

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One of the many architects seeking a project in the city center was modernist and functionalist Richard Rogers. Rogers was known for his Pritzker Architecture Award winning collaboration in the Pompidou Center project in France. He sought to bring his modernist touch to Berlin. Idealistic and dynamic in character, Rogers’ designs had rather exuberant intentions. For one thing, “Rogers was concerned that architecture had lost contact with the public” [1], and as such, he fledged to create a building that both invoked innovation, and for the peoples’ levity, partitioned zones of functionality in a futuristic, yet engagingly contemporary way. He wanted the building as something that made sense to the people. He wanted his design to have a discernable beauty, formulated around a kind of simplicity.

The building at the Daimler Complex assumes the illusion of being of several parts. Broken into categories of shape, use, and innovation, the aggressive separation of each part and building starts with the action of the mirror. The mirroring of the building into two separate, but identical buildings substantiates the presence of the other. Thus, the separation goes unnoticed at each base, causing instead a heightened awareness of intricacy at each tip or end. Not to say that the two immediately facing sides lack complexity, rather, they just reciprocate a design that is physically closer, and in those regards less distinguishable.

Beginning with the entryway, the stairs are set as a spring to the inside. On the one hand, they’re large enough to sustain substantial attraction. On the other hand, however, their simplicity draws attention to the surrounding features. One such feature is the yellow paneled glass cylinder.

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The cylinder of glass, itself, is the promotion of a different shape. Many of the other parts of the building have distinctly cut lines. These lines promote sharp conjunctions. With the cylinder in place to ensure flow, the building is able to rap the differing shapes together to create a makeshift cove, and may I say, a splendid view. […]

Along with a great view, comes functionality. The yellow colored panels attached to the glass cylinders are more than mere sun shades. Rogers’ intended to have a high tech design, coupled with real high tech capabilities. As the sun travels across the building’s façade, the shades follow and block the sun’s rays. This example of visual and technical integrations makes up just one feature highlighted in Rogers’ “intelligence building concept”[2].[…]The color meant something to Rogers as well. He believed that the building should be simply and uncomplicatedly colored, while maintaining a futuristically influenced sensibility. The silver stands strong as the base color, detailed by the yellow panels, and the orange fascia panels on the broadside of the Lego-like base structure. Rogers tried, as with The Pompidou Center, to make, “all the functional elements – pipes, service stacks, lifts and escalators – exposed on the outside in a multicolored celebration of technology.”[3] This type of “high tech” architectural design showcased exactly what kind of buildings Berlin wanted to have in its center. The lure of the building carries on to the almost confusing top half.

Completing the cove-like entryway, the top establishes a distinct bottom to the building. Meanwhile supporting a kind of a platform over which a separated hovering mass floats. Realistically, the top stretches beyond the brim of the building’s parcel to create just enough of a crease to fool the eyes into seeing the top facet of the building appear as though it’s hovering atop the bottom facet. Quite a bewildering and attractive feature for those who may enjoy sneak peeks into the future, or perhaps just for those with especially colorful imaginations to have a bit of fun.

One of the more obvious things about the building is its composition, glass. The glass is a major component of the post-modern architecture style. Despite the diverse selection of glass types Rogers could have chosen from, I find the choice the right one. It’s a very important detail, as it synchronizes the futuristic look of the complex as a whole. Without the glass, the complex wouldn’t make sense, nor would it at all be comprehensible to the contemporary man. After all, that was Rogers’ goal.

Although the Daimler Complex isn’t the home to cultural achievements (like The Pompidou Center), its atypical conglomeration of functionality can inspire all by itself. I believe, the building itself represents a time, and in its own context, a symbol, and maybe at some extent, a paradigm. Much like how we feel about the Roman Coliseum or the Sistine Chapel today could well be how we feel about the Daimler Complex in the future. Moreover, the Daimler Complex is distinctly Berlin, while simultaneously not at all like the rest of traditional Berlin. The ideas behind the structure are Berlin. It’s modern, lively, and interesting, with innovation and functionality lobbying their way into what is, and what will be known as Berlin architecture. The Rogers mirrored business building is here to stay and impress for many years to come. 

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last two images by René Georg Johansen

[1] “High Tech Architecture”, MJ Sunderland, published: February 28, 2008. http://mj-sunderland.quazen.com/arts/architecture/high-tech-architecture/#ixzz2r02hGYi9

[2]PPMG Potsdamer Platz Management GmbH, last modified: 2011. http://potsdamerplatz.de/en/architecture/buildings/linkstrasse-2-4/

[3] ibid.

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