The sky's the limit

The gleaming glass front of the triangular skyscraper will be reflected in the water of the Neukölln Ship Canal (see above; Image: PR). Pedestrians and cars will look like toy figures against the glass and steel giant. At least, that is how Ekkehard Streletzki, the hotel owner, visualizes his next coup. The Estrel Hotel on the Sonnenallee is already Germany's largest hotel complex. A 176-meter hotel tower is set to go up next door by 2018. There are 1,125 rooms in the existing hotel complex. The additional 800 rooms will provide luxury accommodation and entertainment for guests, together with an impressive view over the whole city. The Estrel Tower will be the tallest non-technical structure in Berlin, second only to the Fernsehturm near the Alexanderplatz. At 368 meters, the TV tower is also the tallest building in Germany. Over the next few years, a number of new skyscrapers are due to rise up just a stone's throw away from the iconic Fernsehturm and give Berlin a truly metropolitan skyline.


A number of skyscrapers are currently set to appear around the Alexanderplatz: the US developer Hines plans to build a 150-meter-high apartment block next to the "die Mitte" shopping mall (see above; Image: Gehry Design for Residential Tower; www.hines.com). Architect Frank Gehry won the competition to design the building last year, but Hines will have to be patient: the building project is currently on hold because Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe, the city's transport operator, is worried that the U5 metro tunnel below may not be able to support the skyscraper's weight.

The Russian investor MonArch wants to build another 150-meter-high colossus just a few meters away from the proposed site of the Hines tower. Construction work could begin this year next to the Alexa mall - planning permission has already been granted for the apartment block. The building could then be completed by end-2018.


In January 2015, initial designs were published for a third skyscraper. Architect Christian Speelmanns has plans for another 150-meter giant between the Park Inn Hotel and the Saturn store (see above; Image: Christian Speelmanns). The tower would house Berlin's Central and State Library, finally resolving the longstanding dispute over the library's future. Speelmanns' proposed design involves a base structure with seven stories, plus a tower containing apartments, health and fitness facilities, and a panoramic bar. For the time being, the building only exists in the architect's imagination. Speelmanns hopes to "stimulate debate" with his design. In the next few years, two smaller high-rise buildings are due to appear alongside the giants, a 65-meter-high apartment block to the south of the Alexa shopping mall and another 65-meter building, the Car Loft Tower, on the Jannowitz Bridge.


The architect Hans Kollhoff was already dreaming of skyscrapers on the Alexanderplatz back in 1993. His designs included ten 150-meter towers, none of which have been built to date. Kollhoff's master plan is now considered outdated and is being reworked. But the current construction projects around the Alexanderplatz seem to be sending a different message. Growing numbers of people want to live downtown and yet have sweeping views. Typically, Berlin's rooftops are set at 22 meters, so they cannot fulfill these aspirations. By contrast, skyscrapers in the city center are seen as contemporary working and living spaces, where residents can enjoy state-of-the-art facilities that meet their need for a central location and flexibility.

"I can only think of two places where I would welcome such a concentration of skyscrapers: the Alexanderplatz and City West," comments Stefan Evers, the CDU spokesperson on urban development at the public Forum Bau event. Architects and politicians will gather to discuss the future of Berlin's skyline in March under the title "New skyscrapers in City West?" High-rise buildings are also appearing around the Gedächtniskirche in Berlin. The 118-meter-high Upper West building is currently going up next to the Waldorf Astoria hotel tower, which is exactly the same height. Christoph Langhof designed the second tower for the Breitscheidplatz in Charlottenburg, which should be completed at the end of 2016 or early 2017. In addition to office space and hotel rooms, there are plans to create a panoramic bar on the 33rd story with views over the City West quarter.


Photos and photo credits:
01 Estrel Tower becomes highest hotel in Germany; Photo: PR, available here
02 Gehry Design for Residential Tower; Photo: PR, available here
03 Picture of the design for the Central and Regional Library; Christian Speelmanns