Project type: Urban Planning, Adaptive Reuse


Location: Berlin, Germany


Time: 2013


Status: Competition


Explanatory Report

The south-east corner of the parkland Tempelhof in Berlin is the most intensively used public access to the former airport Tempelhof. This is due mainly to its infrastructural connection. The future central and regional library of Berlin will not just rearrange the arrival situation along the taxiway and the urbanistic area as a high-rising dominating building, but will become a national landmark and a gate for Berlin for passing road-users.

Urban development

The authors suggest a quiet, rectangular route for the urbanistic basic principle of the quarter. It will pass on the identity background of the Berlin district in this place. Decreasing from the street Tempelhofer Damm with its typical Berlin Blockhöfe (apartment building with square inner courtyards) the area will be terracing down from west to east, floor by floor. Finally, a four-floor building plus echelon will mark the end on the parkland side and create a promenade border. This basic principle will be continued on the south side of the developing area.


Two open space themes define this block city. In the north-south axis, we included the long curved, old airport road, which opens up the street in an arc towards the quarter. Like that, the linear space and the airport street will be connected. Nevertheless, the movement space in the urban structure is less important. Its southern extension will lead to the large city square, which will be determined and defined by the volume of the library and the surrounding buildings.


The authors define a high-rising volume for the library, defined by clearly structured rooms within a rectangular floor plan. The cubic subsidence inside will also be found outside. The rectangular room structures repeat themselves in the surrounding and therefore will avoid a strict change in the urbanistic structure. Nevertheless, the building structure produces a strong independence compared to the Blockstadt, because of its dominant height development and other formal shapings. The quarter’s change of scale, doubling its width, is outshining.


As an urbanistic hybrid, the “mega bloc” manages to connect the north and south residential quarters and still keeps the relationships to the organization system of the bloc city. This parallelism of the corners of the city buildings creates an impression of similar rooms and volumes, developing the life on the streets to an urban continuity. The building balances its solitary character in an architectural manner by its height and formal treatment.


The position of the “mega bloc” in proportion to its east-west position is in interplay with the surrounding buildings. The proximity of the library to the main entrance, lined by poplars, is the most important side of the façade and is directed to the Tempelhof parkland. Looking west, water will stretch in-between the large city square and the open field. The space is then visually reduced to a comfortable size, additionally, the water features form a pleasant barrier for noises of the train and motorway. The city square is envisioned as a stone, urban public space, welcoming pedestrians from the Tempelhofer Damm, underground car park and the train station. Green islands and urban furnishing themes give life and determine the large space.


A high bloc rises in the north-east corner of the quarter’s structure. It functions as a gate house for the library square at Tempelhofer Damm. At the same time, it creates a connection between the main square and the library, along the residential quarter and the tree square. These different piazzas avoid the classical leftover spaces, yet it creates a potential to find its own identity.


The library itself strengthens the architectonical main gesture of the urban qualities. The central library opens up widely through its large gate to the estimated 10,000 daily visitors, which will probably arrive by public transport. From east to west, the stairs as well as the building positions in a functional as well as in a symbolic way and connects the city.


The authors define the library of the 21st century as a new language of publicity and openness. In today’s city Berlin the library of the future is one of the few large spaces whose offers are for free. In our urban and democratic rituals it becomes an innovative meeting place that should allow further development than just the topic of books and knowledge. For this reason, the design does not just envision classical interior reading and meeting rooms, but expands this quality and offers a large, lively stair room sculpture that cuts through the interior and exterior rooms of the volume.


The architectonical design compromises the large room program on the estimated size of a football field to a twelve floor building. The general volume will be made efficient by creating a rational cube. The transparent façade will allow to naturally light up the interior. The depth of the building then provides for a core zone with stable environment conditions. The transparence is the first step for the self-understanding of a library of the 21st century.


A diagonal crossing air space divides the different rooms and lights them up. The closed magazines and background areas of the library are located in the first six floors and form the basis of the abstract cube volume. The room that seems to be taken out from the building allows the viewer to see the sky when entering the library square. This “void” swings up to the seventh floor and enlarges the city square. By elevator, escalator or serpentine stairs, it is made easy to manage the height. The furnishing adjusts to the “mountain”, brings life to the Berlin stairs, welcomes visitors to sit down and enjoy their own rituals.


The gesture of the great stair that drills through the building as an “upside-down” canyon continues the interior lobby up to the roof of the library. There, the climbing of the book mountain rewards with a breathtaking view over the Tempelhof field. The diagonal atrium divides the building into different zones and thus creates spaces for different activities. The library of the future focuses on the various attractivenesses of the meeting areas. The access to knowledge in the 21st century is not only individual work, but can be celebrated collectively.


Due to that factor, the design follows the principle of living and moving together. The great stair case is not just a landscape picture to walk on, but a progressive development of the classical atrium and reading space. A dream space on top of the city. This public space shines into the surrounding city and will become a goal for curious journeys to the knowledge of Berlin.


“I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library” Jorge Luis Borges, The journey Odysseus



The compact, rational building figure guarantees for an optimization of the interior processes and provides a high service density for all parameters. Therefore, the skeleton construction is usable for a maximum flexibility for the future. The optimal relation between the volume and enveloping surface is only worsened by the sculptural stair case. Yet, the general overall efficiency of the building is not reduced.


Structural Concept

The structural concept distinguishes itself by a large support grid and an efficient construction. The ceilings conduct the load via the pre-fabricated ceiling elements. A high flexibility and a low-cost construction can thus be achieved. The stability is reached by communication areas.


Energy Concept

We suggest an integrated energy concept for the entire quarter surrounding the library, using the fluctuations in consumption between the library and the residential and retail development. This results is a cost-effective provision by the quarter’s energy center. As the larger energy components of the energy center are located outside the library, no exterior space is needed for the technical system.


The energy concept consists of a combination of a low-cost heat pump (operated by photovoltaic) and is complemented by a solar thermal installation fired by gas/bio gas. This system is almost CO2 neutral, has low energy/consumption costs and already uses existing gas provision of the quarter. The heat pump (geothermal heat) covers 70% of the annual needs of heat, as long as the outdoor temperatures allows. The pumps are operated by photovoltaic, surplus energy will be conducted to network supply. The heat prices to run the library can be 30% lower than using district heating.



The library is remarkable for its compact building structure, combined with a highly efficient façade. Natural light and winter sun are used to its maximal extent. Rainwater from the roof and outdoor area is saved. The water spaces and the main wind direction provide for a pleasing micro climate and can reduce the summer temperatures. Additionally, the planting on the stair case also reduces negative airflow.