Fall 2007 Studio Berlin Topography

Berlin, Germany

This project focused on the weaving of past and future by engaging a critical historic, social cultural and physically damaged area of Berlin. Specifically, the students designed a museum for the Topogrpahy of Terror with the hope that the architectural weaving would involve not only the formal architectural but also the phenomoonlgical. Students examined the site’s history and proposed its possible futures.

The Topography of Terror was, in 2007, an outdoor museum in Berlin located in Niederkirchnerstrasse, formerly Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse, on the site of buildings which during the Nazi regime from 1933 to 1945 were the headquarters of the Gestapo and the SS, the principal instruments of repression during the Nazi era. The buildings that housed the Gestapo and SS headquarters were largely destroyed by Allied bombing during early 1945 and the ruins demolished after the war. The boundary between the American and Soviet zones of occupation in Berlin ran along the Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse, so the street soon became a fortified boundary, and the Berlin Wall ran along the south side of the street, renamed Niederkirchnerstrasse, from 1961 to 1989. The wall itself was never removed from the site, and the section adjacent to the Topography of Terror site is the second-longest segment still in place.

The first exhibitions of the site took place in 1987, as part of Berlin’s 750th anniversary. The cellars of the Gestapo headquarters, where many political prisoners were tortured and executed, were found and excavated. The site was then turned into a memorial and museum, in the open air but protected from the elements by a canopy. In 1992, two years after German reunification, a foundation was established to take care of the site, and the following year, it initiated an architectural competition to design a permanent museum. A design by architect Peter Zumthor was chosen. However, construction was stopped due to funding problems after the concrete core of the structure had been built. This stood on the site for nearly a decade until it was finally demolished in 2004.