In 1988 we completed a competition project, suggesting possible ways to redevelop and ‘rescue’ an area in the centre of what was then West Berlin.
The site under consideration faced a major axis, Kurfurstendamm, and contained existing buildings, including the famous Café Kranzler, designed by Hans Dustmann in 1956 – all following the prevailing architectural concepts of the period. The site was also bisected by an elevated railway running towards Bahnhof Zoo.
Before the fall of the Berlin wall, this area epitomized in microcosm Berlin’s identity as an ‘urban island’. Although bordering the Kurfurstendamm, it was completely enclosed and virtually inaccessible.
To overcome the challenges inherent in this ‘fortified’ location, we suggested the need to increase urban density by expanding horizontally, exploring the concept of urban foyers. We divided the site into air corridors containing three distinct zones – retail, commercial and hotel.
This solution – Victoria City Aerial – transformed ‘urban island’ into an accessible cruciform development, the focal point for several major street and rail thoroughfares. The city featured a glass-floored shopping mall, suspended above public facilities including hotel lobby, assembly hall, conference centre and restaurant. Above this, an extendable system of office beams provided commercial space. Above this, the hotel floated as a curved slab form.