“Today the architect celebrated his victory, at the oyster bar with a glass of champagne!”

(Read to the bottom for, “The Human Rights of the Eye!”)

The architect, with his champagne, was not celebrating that the above was built, it opened last May. This is the new Central Train Station in Berlin It’s the largest in Europe.

But apparently it might have also been a more profound piece of architecture, both aesthetically and functionally.

When announced, [according to this writer]

“The prize-winning design by Gerkan, Marg and Partners with two towers looking over the curve of the station roof, promised to become Berlin’s architectural landmark of the twenty-first century.

It was to claim its place in Berlin’s long and famous tradition of artistic industrial architecture – from Peter Behrens’ AEG Turbine Factory and Josef Paul Kleihues’ workshop building for the city refuse disposal services through to Oswald Mathias Ungers’ sewage pumping station….

Inside, the architects had planned a neo-Gothic vault with great pointed arches …

(rendering as originally designed)

The arches receding into the distance on different levels would have called to mind the lightness of Arab architecture. … Europe would have gained an unparalleled underground theatre of light and motion… The designation “cathedral of transport” would not have seemed exaggerated for this ennoblement of functional architecture.”

Alas and alack, if you read this fabulous critique, you learn that before the work went up,

“130 metres were to be simply lopped off the length of the 450-metre glass roof.

…As the office towers grew, the calamity became more obvious with every passing day. The interplay between the length of the ribbon of glass and the height of the towers, originally in a charged equilibrium, now insults any sense of proportion.

One can imagine what a cinematic effect the trains would have offered, accelerating out like bullets from a gun. Now they will just chunter off into the open air.

The deformation of the interior is no less gratuitous and equally fatal….”

(as built)

But the worst is, if you believe this writer,

“… neither time nor money justified the shortening….

Culture was destroyed in the name of economics, and this will in fact weaken the economy. “

I hate when that happens.
And then the writer Horst Bredekamp heaps it on,

For generations to come, the monstrosity of Lehrter Bahnhof will remain associated with the name of its disfigurer. In Hamburg they have never forgotten how Kaiser Wilhelm II stopped the original design of their main station with a flourish of the imperial quill.

Well get this, today’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung [via] reports

“Yesterday the Berlin District Court ruled in favour of the architect Meinhard von Gerkan, who sued the German rail company Deutsche Bahn for building a bastardised version of his designs for the subterranean level of Berlin’s new main train station, the Hauptbahnhof, which opened on May 28 this year.

“It will now have to be rebuilt according to von Gerkan’s plans, at an estimated cost of 40 million euros.”

The FAZ continues,

“It would be mistaken to see Meinhard von Gerkan as some star architect diva, intent on nursing his artist’s ego no matter what the cost.”

and here comes my favorite part,

“The thousands of rail travellers who pass through Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof every day value architectural aesthetics as much as the price of train tickets, something Deutsche Bahn chairman Hartmut Mehdorn and his colleagues blithely ignored.

Meinhard von Gerkhan and the Berlin Federal Court have decided for the human rights of the eye.”

– Dieter Bartetzko in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.


Can you imagine what von Gerkan would think if he tried to build a train station in America? lol and see next post!

-Edvard von Lifson

interior photos by GMP-Architects. © GMP

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