Saturday, September 26, 2009
former German Japanese Center, Berlin
The former Japanese Embassy in Germany was constructed in Tiergarten, West Berlin, starting in 1939 and completed in 1941. The building design was carried out by architects Moshamar and Pinnau under the direction of Albert Speer, then director of Berlin's city planning in Hitler's regime. Only two years after completion, however, the building was partly damaged during great air raids over Berlin and ceased to be used.
The building remained neglected for some time after the war although in early 1970 a plan was seriously discussed by the city of Berlin to preserve it as one of the few existing pieces of the architecture of the '30s. In 1980 an official request for the restoration of the building was submitted to the Japanese government by the city's authority, who was, at the same time, preparing the Internationale Bauausstellung Berlin (IBA; international building exposition) to commemorate Berlin's 750th anniversary. Under this program some 30 architects from both Germany and other countries were invited to design or take part in design competitions for the redevelopment or restoration of some important areas and buildings in the city.
The investigations and preliminary design to restore the former Japanese Embassy was part of this program and was completed in 1984. The Germans, represented in the main by the IBA, requested that the front facade be preserved as a classic example showing the transition from the Weimar Republic's style to the Third Reich's style. At the same time, they asked that a symbiosis with contemporary architecture be achieved. The present plan was designed to accomplish this, while offering sufficient facilities to serve as the research center that it was designated to be.
The series of front gates represents a fragmentation of the concept of historical, linear time. A section of the flooring in the interior has been opened up, and Schinkel's pillar has been inserted in it. The exterior and interior of the side elevations incorporate Bauhaus-inspired designs, which are quoted as signs. The central courtyard refers to Japanese Zen-style gardens. The redesign and restoration of the embassy is not a mere reproduction of it as it stood during Hitler's Reich, but is a combination of the diachronicity of the span from Schinkel's time to today and the synchronicity of the two very different cultures of Japan and Germany.
The circular museum designed for the adjacent lot is under consideration for a second phase of construction. It has a semicircular skylight roof and one basement floor.