Page D1.2 . 08 November 2006                     
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    Berlin Central Station


    The site, overlooking Berlin's Bundestag, or parliamentary center, was a former strip of "no man's land" between the old East and West, and its significance is not lost on the public. On May 26, 2006, an estimated 100,000 turned out in force for the station's inauguration, along with Chancellor Angela Merkel.

    Cathedral of Glass

    A 1050-foot- (321-meter-) long glass hall runs above the east-west tracks and is intersected by a five-story, 525- by 130-foot (160- by 40-meter) station building, stretching north-south. Two 12-story office blocks bookend the main hall. The project's highest component is a 200-foot- (60-meter-) tall air stack for exhausting fumes from underground. The subterranean north-south line lies 50 feet (15 meters) down, along with the underground station and a parking garage. The whole building is 753,000 square feet (70,000 square meters), over 20 percent of which is its integrated mall.

    The architecture is cavernous and filigreed, letting in generous doses of natural light. Arriving passengers begin to experience Berlin from inside simply by looking out. Viewed from the outside, it darkly reflects the sky — low, imposing, and hard-edged against the horizon.

    This translucent design was no whimsy on the part of the architects. Since the fall of the wall in 1989 the German Bundestag has sought to stand for transparency and openness in parliamentary democracy. This has been expressed in its new architecture through modern, futuristic-looking forms in which glass and light abound.

    However, the Hauptbahnhof was a construction and logistics challenge from the beginning. The graceful east-west roof rises 52 feet (16 meters) as it arches over the tracks, supported by 23 steel trusses and 53 miles (85 kilometers) of steel cable. The design, complicated by the axis of the structure following a curve in the rail line, was modeled with advanced computer-aided design technologies. Each pane of glass is unique.

    There were also time constraints: the subway station below had to be cleared out to start work on the lower tracks, while subway trains used the completed tracks above. The roof construction — with 4000 tons (3,600 tonnes) of scaffolding and 10,000 seams to weld — was completed in four months.

    Inside the Station

    The platforms are largely of a light natural stone, and gmp chose to embed the tracks in concrete rather than a ballast bed. This reportedly lasts longer, allows trains to run more quietly, and requires less maintenance. Leading into the hall is a series of slim bridges resting on tube supports of rolled and cast steel.

    On either side of the main hall stand the office blocks, 538,000 square feet (50,000 square meters) of gross surface area, extending backwards and over the tracks in an arch formation. Their assembly had been an unprecedented spectacle the summer before, marked by crowds of onlookers and a well-timed lightning storm.

    Once the four bracing cores had been built and the steel work added, top sections were lowered onto each. What the public came to see were these top halves being swung downward in a tilting maneuver, meeting in the middle, like two gleaming, rain-lashed drawbridges, before being secured to each side in the arch position.

    The main hall itself is a vast space of glass — with 28 escalators and six viewing elevators that give a feeling of constant activity. A sweeping filigreed glass facade offers a view of the plaza and park beyond, shading users with a brittle, gently curving glass canopy. The open plan further extends the experience. Functionally, the architecture has ensured ultimate convenience. Connections are short and easily navigated, and all five levels are lined with stores and restaurants, even a hair salon.   >>>

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    ArchWeek Image

    Berlin Hauptbahnhof designed by von Gerkan, Marg and Partners (gmp).
    Photo: Jo Baker

    ArchWeek Image

    Inside the new Berlin Hauptbahnhof.
    Photo: Marcus Bredt

    ArchWeek Image

    Escalators and glass elevators lend to the impression of constant activity.
    Photo: Marcus Bredt

    ArchWeek Image

    Transparency in the train station.
    Photo: Marcus Bredt

    ArchWeek Image

    View to the city from inside.
    Photo: Jo Baker

    ArchWeek Image

    Arches of steel and glass.
    Photo: Marcus Bredt

    ArchWeek Image

    Longitudinal section.
    Image: gmp

    ArchWeek Image

    Cross section.
    Image: gmp


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