Varied History of the Kulturforum

An eventful history has left its mark on the Kulturforum. At the beginning of the 20th century, it developed into a middle class residential neighborhood where many pioneers of the avant-garde found a home. In the 1930s, the National Socialists radically redesigned the district. Numerous houses were torn down in preparation for Albert Speer’s Nord-Süd-Achse (a north-south axis cutting through the city), destroying the composition of the neighborhood. An intensive planning and development phase for the Kulturforum began after World War II, when architect Hans Scharoun was the city council member in charge of construction and housing.

The Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz chose the Kulturforum as its main location during the era when Germany was divided. Most of the new buildings were constructed here. Now the Kulturforum is being developed further with the construction of a new museum for 20th century art.

Timeline – From the Tiergarten District to the Kulturforum

St. Matthäus in the residential Tiergarten district (1920)
St. Matthäus in the residential Tiergarten district (1920) © bpk

from 1685
French Huguenots settled in the district

18th century
First summer villas along Tiergartenstrasse (from 1790)

ca. 1840
Basic structure of Friedrichvorstadt neighborhood complete

1844–46
St. Matthew Church built by Friedrich August Stüler

1888
First embassy (China) erected in the Tiergarten district




1937
Resolution to redesign the Reichshauptstadt (imperial capital) on plans by Albert Speer

from 1938
Residential houses torn down for the Nord-Süd-Achse

1938
Construction starts on the Haus des Fremdenverkehrs (House of Tourism) at the future Runde Platz, the intersection of Speer’s north-south axis

from 1940
The murder of psychiatric patients and people with other illnesses in Tiergartenstrasse 4 (so-called Aktion T4)

1943–45
Bombing and almost complete destruction of the Tiergarten district

Kemperplatz in ruins with the superstructure of the Haus des Fremdenverkehrs building (1945)
Kemperplatz in ruins with the superstructure of the Haus des Fremdenverkehrs building (1945) © Berlin State Archive
View of the Kulturforum. The start of construction on the Neue Nationalgalerie is visible in the background (1966)
View of the Kulturforum. The start of construction on the Neue Nationalgalerie is visible in the background (1966) © bpk / Rolf Koehler

1946
Collective plan for the redevelopment of Berlin, created by Hans Scharoun

1956
Design competition for the concert hall of the Berliner Philharmoniker “Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra” on Bundesallee; Hans Scharoun receives 1st prize

1956–60
Reconstruction of St. Matthew Church

1959
The Senate decides to move the Philharmonie to Kemperplatz in order to emphasize its significance for all of Berlin




1960–63
Construction of the Philharmonie

1963–68
Construction of the Galerie des 20. Jahrhunderts by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

1963/64
Project competition for the building of the new Staatsbibliothek (State Library) with a section on urban planning ideas; Hans Scharoun receives 1st prize

1965
Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz takes over the Galerie des 20. Jahrhunderts, calling it the Neue Nationalgalerie

The steel roof construction of the Neue Nationalgalerie was raised with hydraulic presses and lowered onto eight supports (1967)
The steel roof construction of the Neue Nationalgalerie was raised with hydraulic presses and lowered onto eight supports (1967) © Zentralarchiv, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
The Neue Nationalgalerie shortly after it opened (1968)
The Neue Nationalgalerie shortly after it opened (1968) © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Reinhard Friedrich

1965/66
Open competition for the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin; after a revision, Rolf Gutbrod receives the commission

1967–1976
New Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin is built

1968
Preliminary design for a chamber music hall; Hans Scharoun receives a direct commission

1969
Planning for Musikinstrumenten-Museum/Staatliches Institut für Musikforschung  (Museum of Musical Instruments/State Institute for Music Research) begins; direct commission goes to Hans Scharoun

1972
After Scharoun’s death, Edgar Wisniewski completes the construction

1978–85
Kunstgewerbemuseum (Museum of Decorative Arts) is constructed by Rolf Gutbrod

1979–82
Musikinstrumenten-Museum is constructed by Edgar Wisniewski

1984
Competition for surface design of the Piazzetta; Heinz Mack receives 1st prize

1984–87
Chamber Music Hall is constructed by Edgar Wisniewski

The Kulturforum with the Neue Nationalgalerie, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin  and Berliner Philharmonie. The start of construction on the Kunstgewerbemuseum is visible in the background (1978)
The Kulturforum with the Neue Nationalgalerie, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin and Berliner Philharmonie. The start of construction on the Kunstgewerbemuseum is visible in the background (1978) © bpk / Rolf Koehler
View of the Huth House from the roof of the ruins of the Vaterland House on Potsdamer Platz (around 1978)
View of the Huth House from the roof of the ruins of the Vaterland House on Potsdamer Platz (around 1978) © bpk / Michael Sobotta

1985/86
Critical discussion of Gutbrod’s concept for the museums and announcement of a new competition; Hilmer & Sattler und Albrecht, and Schürmann each receive 2nd prize

1987
Hilmer & Sattler und Albrecht are commissioned to continue Gutbrod’s museum buildings and to erect a new building for the Gemäldegalerie (Old Master Paintings)

1989
Berlin Wall is opened





1991
Urban planning competition Potsdamer/Leipziger Platz (Kulturforum excluded); Hilmer & Sattler und Albrecht (with ideas for a connection to the Kulturforum) receive 1st prize

1997/98
Landscape planning project competition with Kulturforum urban planning part; Valentien + Valentien and Hilmer & Sattler und Albrecht each receive 1st prize. Park/public space design for the project site completed in June 1998 (except for private property)

1998
Gemäldegalerie building opens

 

Entrance to the Kulturforum via the Piazzetta
Entrance to the Kulturforum via the Piazzetta © bpk / Hans-Christian Krass
In 2015, the Neue Nationalgalerie was vacated and prepared for renovation; view of the empty exhibition rooms
In 2015, the Neue Nationalgalerie was vacated and prepared for renovation; view of the empty exhibition rooms © Fabian Fröhlich

2006
Berlin parliament adopts master plan for the further development of the Kulturforum

2009/10
Outdoor spatial concept by Valentien + Valentien is revised and agreed

2014
Renovation and complete restoration of the Neue Nationalgalerie begins

2015
Implementation of outdoor space concept in the northern section (Philharmonie parking lot) begins

Source: Senate Department for Urban Development and Environment