The address of choice

Sir Norman Foster's Reichstag Dome, the Jewish Museum by Daniel Libeskind or the Hans Kollhoff skyscraper at Potsdamer Platz: a great many star architects have put their mark on Berlin's cityscape. Now, these celebrated designers are creating more than public and official buildings and Berlin is seeing growing numbers of residential buildings designed by famous architects. Many, such as the British architect David Chipperfield, even have their own offices in Berlin.


Chipperfield's studio is located in Joachimstraße, in Berlin Mitte. This newbuild with its concrete façade immediately catches the eye, sandwiched as it is between two period buildings in the Wilhelminian style. However, what remains concealed from view to passers-by are the office premises themselves.

To the rear of the modern front area of the house, with its event and exhibition rooms and a private apartment, is an adjoining five-level brick building. Originally built in 1895 as a piano factory, it now blends harmoniously with the modern architecture of the newbuild.


The common theme running through David Chipperfield's projects is Berlin's architectural and cultural heritage. This is also evident in the design of his latest residential project, Palais Varnhagen, with architecture referencing the salon culture of 1920s Berlin. Until 1827, the renowned Salon Varnhagen was held at Französische Straße 20, at the corner of Friedrichstraße. Adelbert von Chamisso, Wilhelm von Humboldt, Heinrich Heine, Franz Grillparzer, the Schlegel brothers and the Mendelssohn family were all frequent guests. Just a few houses farther along, at Französische Straße 56-60, a modern city palace is now being built to resurrect the flair of that bygone era. David Chipperfield Architects designed both the building itself and the interiors. The high-ceilinged rooms are fitted with the finest paneled parquet flooring; the bathrooms are finished in natural stone. Meanwhile, the large paintings in the four foyers of Palais Varnhagen are by Berlin artist Christian Hoischen and depict Rahel Varnhagen's diverse friendships.


Philippe Starck's residential vision for Berlin is a striking contrast to the Palais Varhagen. Together with real estate developer John Hitchcox, the French star designer has created a selection of high-end apartments which go by the name of Yoo Berlin and enjoy views over the river Spree, not far from the train station at Friedrichstraße 95. The ten-story building features a spacious wellness and fitness area and prospective buyers can choose from four different design lines.

"If a young couple or a family is interested in an apartment, we play a kind of game. We show them pictures of a tree, a baby, a mirror, a landscape and a number of other things. They then say, "we like this, we don't like that at all". After a couple of minutes, it's clear which of our four style families - 'Nature', 'Minimal', 'Classic' or 'Culture' is best suited to their tastes. In essence, we help people to better see themselves and to discover their own style", Philippe Starck explained in 2010 at the launch of Yoo Berlin. The 'Nature' style line features simple wooden floors, limestone surfaces and a specific style of door handle.


Architectural firm Graft made a name for itself beyond the boundaries of Berlin with a summerhouse designed for Hollywood star, Brad Pitt. They also built a residential building at Torstrasse 149 a number of years ago. The trio of architects deliberately selected this location, directly at the border between Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg.

The architecture of their new design consciously references the adjacent period buildings. The metal façade alters their appearance in an exciting way when the sun reflects in it. This material is echoed in the interior design, be it in the bathroom tiles or the fireplace cladding. The one and two-level apartments are characterized by high ceilings, large windows and a loft-style feel. On request, a kitchen sculpture with the curved lines characteristic of Graft's designs can be installed to form the centerpiece of the room. Talking about working with Graft, project developer Patrick Reich says, "working with 'star' architects not only requires more coordination, but also involves having to adapt to the creative process. This was challenging at times. We fostered creativity where it was important, but also set boundaries where we felt this was necessary." For instance, Graft had complete freedom in the design of the facade. When it came to floorplans, however, Reich was more concerned with attention to efficiency and suitability for everyday use.

Berlin is set to see even more projects by famous architects in future. At present, Hamburg-based Hadi Teherani is planning the rebuilding project for the harbor at Humboldthafen. His signature style will then shape an entire neighborhood.


Photos and photo credits:

Title: Tor149 by architects Graft © Tobias Hein

01_ Newbuild by David Chipperfield in Joachimstraße, Berlin Mitte © Simon Menges
02_ Parlais Varnhagen by David Chipperfield in Mitte © Zabel Property
03_ YOO Berlin by Philippe Stark © Zabel Property
04_Tor149 by architects Graft © Tobias Hein