by Stanley Collyer
©FAZ Aerial view of site
Adding on to Mies van der Rohe’s famous Museum of the 20th Century is no small challenge for any architect participating in this competition. If symbolism wasn’t enough, the site is surrounded by distinctive structures, including Hans Sharoun’s Philharmonic Hall and National Library, the latter located just across the street, and the Matthias Church. Although the selected site next to the current museum was a controversial call, the sponsors of this international competition decided against moving it to another location. One of the unintended consequences of that decision would have to be the size and appearance of the addition. To what extent would it be competing with the existing Mies museum, not only in its siting, but also its architectural expression?
This recently concluded ideas competition attracted 460 entries from around the world. Of those, ten submissions were awarded €26,000 to proceed to the next competition round, where a number of firms will be added to the mix—40-60 is the most recent estimate by the client—for the €200M commission. Why add an ideas competition to this process when the normal procedure has been to shortlist high profile firms for EU competitions? One may only speculate that the uproar caused by a lawsuit coming from a substantial segment of the architecture profession in Germany, complaining about the exclusion of smaller firms from the process, had its effect on the sponsor’s decision to pursue this two-tier process.
Although probably well intentioned, this process could have some interesting, unintended consequences. One could only imagine what might occur if a young employee of a large firm, which subsequently was selected to participate in the second-stage competition for the commission, had already entered the invited competition and been selected as one of the ten finalists in the ideas competition to participate in the next stage. Would that firm be represented twice in the second stage? Thomas Hoffmann-Kuhnt, long-time editor of the German architectural publication, Wettbewerbe Aktuell, said, “in my 50 years as an observer in this business I have never seen a competition organized in this fashion.” One may assume that the Association of German Architects (BdA) didn’t have a guiding hand in this.
The ideas competition did turn out to be international in scope, as half of the ten finalists were non-German. As the anonymity will be adhered to throughout the second stage, those first-stage entries—identified here by number only—may still have an outside chance for the commission. In the meantime, there will be a lot of debate about the several strategies pursued by those teams who advanced to the second stage.