Adding Up – The BASF European Shared Service Center Building

by Barbara Teixeira

Whoever takes a moment to look around the busy bridge at the Warschauer U-Bahn station can easily notice a strange high rise standing out from the other buildings not only for its height, but also for its rather unusual appearance.

The high rise, which was the first one to be completed in Berlin in 1910, is now even higher, with 5 more levels added to the original structure. Located in the region of the so-called Mediaspree, the building, which was once a lightbulb factory, now houses the global chemical company BASF along with its approximately 1,000 employees.

The reason why it attracts both attention and curiosity is obvious. The fact that it is not a common practice to add storeys to a building after its completion is evident in how this building’s extension was built. The cube shaped glass structure on top was constructed in the 1990s and has no intention of blending in as a part of the original project.

At night time, the glass structure lights up with blue colored lights, while the rest of the building is completely dark. This gives the people that pass by the opportunity to distinctly see the two disparate façades, starkly contrasting how it appears during the day.

As one approached the building, the Frankenstein-like impression it gives is even more evident. The wall that faces a green open space is marked with different color bricks. The sand colored bricks, in contrast with the dark brown bricks of the rest of the building, establish the area where there was likely another building before. The absence of windows in this area of the façade leads us to the same conclusion.

The obvious amount of changes this building and its surroundings have undergone really makes the mind wander. It is inevitable to imagine that it would simply be easier to tear this structure down and build something new and carefully planned in order to better fulfill the purpose of the current building

[…]

Throughout the entire city it is possible to point out examples where the old meets the new: the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche, the Reichstag and its dome or even the Akademie der Künste at the Pariser Platz. These buildings are make their mark in the city landscape not only because of their architecture, but also because of the history that led them to be what they are today. Seeing this obviously old, two colored brick building, topped by what seems to be a floating glass box makes the observer imagine how and, most importantly, why it got this way. Considering all of this, the structure suggests it possesses a unique history embedded in its oddities, yet this history has gone unnoticed and unfortunately, as of yet, untold.

All Images by Nichole Wong

 

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