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Multifunctional complex and public space Dorotheen Quartier

A New Urban Heart

Behnisch Architekten

One, if not the recurrent “theme” of Stefan Behnisch’s architecture is the square, or court. The epitome of the gathering place, where anything can happen, the square is a space enclosed by a protective curtain offering a series of glimpsed views. A place of muted voices or strident cries, at times heightened by silence, the square is first and foremost a permeable space where people move as if in a quietly flowing fluid, here and there forming small eddies that pause and gather, momentarily breaking what seems a never-ending flux. Behnisch’s mastery lies in his ability to create forms from a hierarchy of volumes whose different features set up a series of focal points and perspectives. An example is his seminal project of 1998 for IBN - the Institute for Forestry and Nature Research, now Alterra - in Wageningen, where several planted courts provide a series of communal spaces. The square is again a key feature - this time more developed and incredibly porous - in the 2004 Genzyme Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where the court becomes the public heart of the private building that encloses it. We find them again - extensive, inundated with light, with overhead elements that seem to hover like theatrical machinery over a stage - in the enormous vertical area of Hamburg’s Unilever-Haus (2009), a high-tech space whose dreamlike quality dematerializes the surrounding architecture, allowing it to breathe. In redesigning a section of central Stuttgart, Behnisch has now created an open space where variety is the source of a punctuated yet harmonious continuity. A functional connective element, public space is here a structure made of volumes of air that hold together the surrounding architecture, in turn made up of a series of volumes that dialogue with each other. Behnisch Architekten was adjudicated the Dorotheen Quartier brief in the spring of 2010. Subsequently, however, the urban plan underwent radical changes following the...

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