World Heritage Bernau Bauhaus Visitors Center

From Storied Restoration to Prime Travel Destination


Winning entry ©Steimle Architekten


When we first included an article in COMPETITIONS about the restoration of Hannes Meyer’s Berlin Trade Union School in 2007, little did we anticipate that this subject would resurface on several occasions over the years. With the initial publication of the article,* copies went out to a number of interested parties outside of our subscriber base. What we next heard was that the project by the Bauhaus team led by Meyer had received the first World Monuments Prize—sponsored by Knoll. As it happened, one of the award jurors just happened to be a recipient of the issue with that article. A coincidence? In any case, German members of the restoration committee thought that the COMPETITIONS article played a role in that award and have kept us up to date about subsequent news concerning the Trade Union School.














View to entrance of Hannes Meyer’s Trade Union School building from the competition site.


More recently, Meyer’s project was the recipient of the 2017 UNESCO World Heritage Bauhaus Monument Award. The attention, which the project has brought to this Berlin suburb of Bernau, has led the community to recognize the need for a visitors center. Until now, tours of the building have only been offered on weekends. The press coverage, which the project has received, has led to an exponential increase in the number of visitors. Thus, for the design of this relatively small, but now a very high-profile project, it came as no surprise that the municipality settled on a design competition. The fact that the Federal Government was contributing two-thirds of the cost of this project may also have influenced that decision.






























A view of Hannes Meyer’s Trade Union School on the 2007 cover of the December issue of COMPETITIONS magazine

photo: ©Stanley Collyer



The Program


The site was to be located in a wooded area directly across from the Entrance to the school, with a parking lot located to the rear. Since the budget for the construction of the visitors center was set at only €1.1M, it was understood that this would be a one-story structure, to reduce the need for a extra expense for an elevator. This did not preclude the creation of a subterranean area, as we shall see later. The client stated that architectural expression would be a high priority. But based on the relatively low budget and the Bauhaus theme lurking in the background, all that suggested that simplicity had to be foremost in the minds of the designers.


The jury was composed of nine panelists, at least five of which were design/academic professionals:


Expert Jurors



Technical Jurors

• Jürgen Jankowiak, Baudezernent, Bernau
• Friedemann Seeger, Verein „baudenkmal bundesschule bernau e.V.“
• Jan Bernatzki, City Council member
• Birgit Kann, Federal Institute for Construction and City Planning

• Philipp Jamme [Deputy juror], Potsdam


Based on EU standard procedures, the announcement drew 47 Expressions of Interest. Of those, 14 firms were invited to submit design proposals. Besides the winner, the jury decided to award one second place and two honorable mentions. The decision could not have been easy, partially due to the subject matter, and also based on a tight budget. It was almost certainly going to be a rectangular form, with variations on the programmatic spaces.


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Recent Archive Updates

Interview: James Mary O’Connor FAIA (Winter 2017)

After receiving his Diploma in Architecture from the Dublin Institute of Technology and BS in Architecture from Trinity College in Dublin, James received his Masters in Architecture from the University of California, Los Angeles while a Fulbright Scholar in the U.S. Shortly after his time as a student in Charles Moore’s Master Class at UCLA, he joined the Moore firm in Los Angeles, now Moore Ruble Yudell. Beginning in the late 1980s, he was involved in the firm’s many projects in Germany, many of which dealt with masterplanning and the construction of large housing, primarily in Berlin. Subsequently, he was involved in the Potatisåkern Master Plan & Housing, as well as the Bo01 Housing Exhibition, both in Malmö, Sweden.
James was MRY’s point person in its subsequent involvement with the firm’s many projects in the People’s Republic of China, beginning with their winning competition proposal for the Century Center project in Beijing. Although unbuilt, it didn’t escape the notice of the Chinese, who invited the firm to participate in a competition for the Tianjin Xin-He large neighborhood masterplan—which they won. This was followed by the 2004 Chun Sen Bi An Housing Masterplan competition in the city of Chongqing, located in central China—completed in 2010. This high profile project resulted in a number of affordable and high-end housing projects throughout China. The firm’s most remarkable sustainability project was the COFCO Agricultural Eco-Valley Master Plan project outside Beijing, envisioned to become the first net zero-carbon project of its kind in the world.
In the meantime, the firm’s focus in China has evolved from its concentration on housing to institutional projects, such as the Shanghai University of Technology‘s research buildings. In the meantime MRY has been noted as a leader in the design of campus projects in the U.S. and abroad, as well as numerous government projects—courthouses and embassies.



Interview: James Mary O’Connor FAIA (Winter 2017)

Playing the China Card: The MRY Example



Chun Sen Bi An Housing, Chongqing (competition 2004; completion 2010)


COMPETITIONS: Moore Ruble Yudell (MRY) has had a reputation as an international player since the 1980s. How did you manage to become involved in China?


James O’Connor: We were first invited to take part in a (developer) competition in Beijing in 2002, the Beijing Century Center. We won, but the project was never built. The client was not that serious, and we never got paid. After that, we said that we would never enter another competition in China. But, what turned out to be a real clientele kept after us to participate in one of their projects. After turning them down several times, we finally relented. That was a competition for the Tianjin Xin-he New Town Master Plan and Housing in Tianjin—which we did win.



Chun Sen Bi An perspectives (above)

Chun Sen Bi An Housing Master Plan


COMPETITIONS: Once you have become established in China, it would seem that you almost can pick and choose between competitions and projects.


O’Connor: Right before the time of the Olympics, there were few foreign firms working there so we were interviewing clients as opposed to clients interviewing us. And every time we would go out, we would be involved with another project, or another competition. It all started in kind of a shaky way; but that’s kind of how it evolved.