Where there are old buildings, there is the possibility for reuse and innovation. In Germany, wartime damage and changes to urban landscapes in the postwar period have created numerous opportunities for revitalisation. With the expansion of the sustainability movement, the trend of repurposing old architecture for new uses has only grown in recent years. In this visual tour, we’ll look at repurposed buildings throughout Germany that have found new life as cultural and historical institutions.
Documentation Center Nazi Party Grounds, Nuremburg
The German city of Nuremburg (Nürnburg), home to the post-war Nuremburg Trials, was a major centre for the Nazi party from the 1920s and the site of the notorious Nuremburg Rallies. The unfinished Congress Hall building, designed to hold 50,000 people and part of the Nazi Party’s rally grounds, has now been converted into a documentation centre. The award-winning new building’s architect, Günther Domenig, designed modern elements in metal and glass that cut diagonally through the original building, creating a dynamic effect. Since 2001, the centre is home to events, exhibitions, and educational spaces. A permanent exhibition, ‘Fascination and Terror,’ documents the history of fascism in Germany.
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The Boros Collection, Berlin
Housed in a former bunker designed by Karl Bonatz under Nazi official and Hitler’s chief architect Albert Speer, the Boros Collection is an impressive private collection of post-1990 contemporary art. The bunker has served as an air raid shelter, a stronghold and prison for the occupying Red Army, a Cold War warehouse for Cuban fruits and vegetables, and a post-1989 techno club, among other functions. Art collector Christian Boros purchased the building in 2003 and converted it into an exhibition venue, which held its first public exhibition in 2008. You can visit the current exhibition only by making an appointment to join a tour.
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The Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg
The architectural superstar of 2016/2017, the newly-finished Elbphilharmonie is unlike any symphony hall in the world. Built in Hamburg’s Sandtorhafen, it is an extension of the Kaiserspeicher, built in 1875 as the harbour’s biggest warehouse. Designed by architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron in collaboration with master acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota, the new building features two concert halls, apartments, a hotel, dining facility, and a public plaza level with views of the harbour that is open all day. Its striking glass façade and wavelike roof perch grandly on the foundation of the old warehouse building. The plaza level of the building opened to the public in November 2016, with the first concert taking place in 2017. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other dignitaries and cultural figures were in the audience.
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Radialsystem V, Berlin
This venue in former East Berlin’s Friedrichshain neighbourhood was once a pumping station for the Berlin Water Services. Built and expanded around the turn of the 20th century, it was the largest pumping station in Berlin’s water system. Though damaged in the Second World War, it remained functional until 1999. Architect Gerhard Spangenburg took on the project of redesigning the building in 2004, and the new structure opened as Radial System V Space for Arts and Ideas in 2006. The new building is a harmonious combination of traditional industrial and contemporary aesthetics and hosts a wide range of exciting events throughout the year, including modern and classical music, dance and other performances, and lectures.
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