Directly on the bank of Berlin’s River Spree, framed by the Reichstag and the new central station, the Futurium has come into being, housed in an exceptional, modern piece of architecture that adds in a unique way to the urban environment of the government quarter. On three floors and around 3,200 square metres of exhibition space, this centre for shaping the future grants fascinating insights into the world of tomorrow, while embodying in itself a visionary concept of space.
The design by the Berlin architects Richter and Musikowski relies on both pure, sculptural forms and openness and accessibility.
The building’s skin is made from cast glass that by day and night reflects and refracts the light in its playful multiplicity. Flooded with light, too, are the completely accessible exhibition and event spaces. High window fronts open up panoramic views of the surrounding area and, at the same time, symbolise the open and broad perspective that the building aims to provide in the field of future-related topics.
However, not only from an aesthetic standpoint is the Futurium future-oriented: the building complies with the highest standards required for a minimum-energy building. It relies completely on the potential provided by renewable energy. In this regard, the “Skywalk” on the roof not only allows a glimpse of the solar sea of collector panels for photovoltaic and solar thermal systems but, above all, offers a unique view of the bend of the Spree and the German Chancellery.
Two generous forecourts subdivide the open space surrounding the Futurium. The main entrances are situated on these forecourts. They are covered by roofs that project up to 18 metres in length. The resulting public space is both sheltered and in the open air.
A dot pattern covers the entire surface of the square and gives it its own character. Playfully arranged within the pattern are seating options, paths but also rest areas. Circular benches with plants in the middle provide for a central meeting point on the square.
Along the passageway to the Charité, the event area’s terrace is to be found between lines of trees offering shade.
The façade consists of more than 8,000 cassette panels. Each of these panels of around one metre consists of differently folded metal reflectors and ceramic-printed cast glass. They create an iridescent cloud effect that changes according to the incidence of light.
Two vast glass surfaces – 8x28m to the south and 11x28m to the north – offer spectacular views and place the exhibited “thinking spaces” in context to the ever-present urban space.
The foyer on the ground floor links the two main entrances with all the facilities of, and important routes through, the Futurium building. It also serves as a central gathering point and place for the exchange of information.
Here visitors can find all the essential facilities supporting the exhibitions and events such as the cloakroom, toilets, central information desk, catering area and shop.
Mobile partitions and intelligent housing technology enable the event spaces on the building’s ground floor to be configured in different sizes, ranging from 50 to 670m2. Equipped with daylight, bright and acoustically active surfaces, a variety of retractable projection devices and full accessibility, the event area offers space for communicating about the world of tomorrow.
Occupying a full 600m2, the exhibition area in the basement presents itself as an underground laboratory in which visitors can personally experience how exciting futurology can be. Dark-coloured face concrete, a black floor made of mastic asphalt and a ceiling grid consisting of 126 fluorescent screens add a very special atmosphere to this 6-metre-high room situated below the water level of the Spree.
The exhibition area on the upper floor is accessible over the central stairway and the visitors’ lift. It has been conceptualised as a continuous space of around 3,000m2. The exhibition will be divided into three large thinking spaces that deal with three key dimensions of the future: our future relationship with technology, with nature and with ourselves as human beings.
The galleries, suspended from the roof construction without any additional support, serve as architectural levels of communication. Due to their elevated situation and the large-format lateral glazings they offer inspiring views of the exhibition area and the outdoor spaces.
By means of its geometrical shape the roof collects the entire rainfall in the manner of a catch basin. The water is drained at the lowest point of the roof, collected in a cistern and used for cooling down the building.
Nearly the entire surface of the roof is covered in solar-energy panels for the photovoltaic (electricity) and solar thermal (heat) systems. They use the renewable energy of the sun to satisfy a large proportion of the building’s own energy demand.
The skywalk on the roof, accessible by foot or lift, is open to the public and proceeds around the entire roof. From here, visitors can enjoy a spectacular view of the Berlin skyline from the Reichstag dome to the television tower. To the south, the German Chancellery and the bend of the Spree are visible, whereas to the north, visitors can see the site of the Charité hospital as well as the central station Berlin Hauptbahnhof.
An innovative hybrid energy storage device is used in order to make the thermal energy of the sun, as well as energy yields generated in-house, capable of being used for the operation of the building. By means of a patented macro-encapsulation process, the storage device combines paraffin, a latent phase-change material, with the sensitive storage-medium water, thereby achieving eight times the capacity of traditional water reservoirs.
All picture: Schnepp Renou