Directly on the banks of the river Spree, between the Reichstag and the central station (Hauptbahnhof), lies the Futurium, whose extraordinary, modern architecture uniquely complements the urban environment of the government district. Spanning three floors and around 3,200 square metres of exhibition space, the centre for shaping the future offers fascinating insights into the world of tomorrow and embodies a visionary concept of space.
The design of the Berlin architects Richter and Musikowski also emphasises clear and sculptural forms as well as openness and accessibility.
The building envelope is made of cast glass, which creates an intricate pattern of light and shadow both day and night. The completely accessible exhibition and event rooms are also flooded with light. Large window facades allow panoramic views into the surroundings and at the same time symbolise the open, wide perspective that the Futurium wants to grant topics about the future.
But it’s not just the aesthetics of the Futurium that are forward-looking: The building corresponds with low-energy standards. It is based entirely on the potential of renewable energies. The “skywalk” on the roof not only provides a view of the solar sea from photovoltaics and solar thermal energy collector fields, but also offers a unique view of the Spreebogen and the Kanzleramt.
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 and even rest areas. Circular benches with plants in the middle provide for a central meeting point on the square. Along the path to the Charité, the event area’s terrace is to be found between lines of trees offering shade. The forecourts were designed in collaboration with landscape architects JUCA.
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 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 the space for communicating about the world of tomorrow.
Occupying a full 600m2, the exhibition area in the basement offers 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.
Pictures: Schnepp Renou