Design Genius: Architecture in Berlin

Assignment title: Principles of Graphic Design

Module Number: BCOP100

Design Genius:

Architecture in Berlin


After recently visiting the capital of Germany, I was in complete awe from the architecture present. The mixture of both contemporary and archaic buildings showed context to the war, and what destruction it imposed.

Upon receiving this essay framework, I considered showcasing Berlin’s architecture to be design genius an appropriate subject. I am going to discuss the alterations between the cities appearance from pre/ post war, as well as analysing and comparing artists who contributed to the architecture and design styles that elaborated from post war developments. Specifically, the time period I will be studying is from 1940 – 2016 (present day). All of these factors will be used to prove my argument that the architecture of Berlin is design genius. I will also highlight negative factors to make a fair dispute.


Berlin was a major target during World War II. From the period of 1940 – 1945 The German capital got showered with air raids, flattening areas of the city and causing heavy damage to the remaining buildings. A video showing the aftermath of the area surrounding the Brandenburg gate clarifies this. Immediately after the declaration of peace, civilians started to clear and rebuild. Many landmarks and other significant buildings got damaged such as the Berlin Dom, and Potsdamer Bahnhof. However before the events of World War II, other damage was inflicted towards important structures. Communists protested to the Nazi party by causing arson to the Reichstag parliament building, which took extensive damage and lost its dome roof.


Fig. 1. Reichstag building, 1930                                        Fig 2. Reichstag, West Façade, 2013


The above images show the comparison from pre war to post war of the Reichstag building. The architect Norman Foster and his company Foster and Partners restored the building’s dome. Instead of creating a replica or similar product to the previous stone exterior, a genius new take was perceived. Not only were aesthetics priority for this project, but also environmental concern was considered. The new cupola acts as a ventilation system, providing natural airflow and light through the entire building via the open top roof and channeled angles of the structure. The center column is encircled in mirrors, to guide light towards the building entrance and lower floors. Renewable bio fuel is recycled which powers the building and other close to its proximity. As the glass, mirror construct conducts and reflects heat; the superfluous energy is stored as hot water, to be used in winter.

The features of this restoration created by Norman Foster show design genius, as the cupola has a “94% reduction of carbon dioxide emissions.” (Lisa Ana, 2014)

Fig 3, Passive climate control, 2013                      Fig 4. Reichstag dome exterior, 2013


The above illustration and photograph show the scientific context and modern aesthetic. Upon walking up the staircase, the audience gets a 3600 view of the city, giving another use to the spherical design.

Another architect who is responsible for the modernisation and genius of architecture in Berlin is Renzo Piano. This individual is has developed the structures in Potsdamer Platz, a set of buildings with great integrity. The proposed plans for Potsdamer Platz in 1991 caused controversy to the German public. Piano announced his plans just after the collapse of the Berlin wall, a sensitive time for residents regarding the history of the city. His plans were described as “an expression of blatant Americanization”. I understand this due to the fact that the structures – which are currently completed and look incredible when I saw it – is close to the location of the wall. However surely vital stages in moving forward from somewhat negative history are to develop new surroundings for a thriving future? Upon observing the plaza, the contrast of angles in the skyscrapers defines advancement and beauty. It is quite easy to forget remnants of the War, which therefore can be seen as uplifting. This shows the aesthetic itself doesn’t define genius design; this shows emotional captivity can play an important role, especially in a delicate place of history.

To compare both Norman Foster and Renzo Piano, they both worked on Berlin restoration at close timeframes, as well as being the same age. However their inspirations and design backgrounds vary starkly. Their design styles and objectives alter. Foster focuses on Environmental impact as a primary factor in his work, while Piano prioritises aesthetic appeal through contemporary craftsmanship. One similar factor both artists’ designs share is the repetitive use of glass. In comparison to pre war architecture, glass was used minimally, with large concrete surfaces swallowing opportunity. The Reichstag building proves an effective example, from the conversion of a concrete dome to an elaborate cupola. The Potsdamer skyscrapers have large glass surfaces bringing a contemporary contrast to nearby archaic buildings. This was inspired from post war art movements such as Russian Constructivism. These art movements were forged from relief; hope and other post war emotions and play an important role in the appearance of Berlin today. Many other architects worked on Berlin such as David Chipperfield, who says, “Architecture should be about looking for things which we find in common, and building for society.” (David Chipperfield, 2003). This quote reinforces the collaboration of art movements and architecture to unite people in moving forward, once again providing a positive impact on the city. Another genius aspect.

Shortly after the fall of the Berlin wall, the city was trying to revitalise by entering for the chance to host the 2000 Olympic games. This lead to the construction of the Velodrom as well as refurbishing the two existing arenas. The overall effects generated from the construction of the Velodrom resolve to be more negative than positive. For example as the Velodrom was a venue intended for great popularity, both housing and property prices increased in the surrounding area. In fact, “Results suggest a larger impact of Velodrom on property prices compared to Max-Schmeling-Arena.” (Ahlfeldt, G.M. and Maennig, 2003), an already existing arena. The Velodrom lead to more issues. No parking was permitted to encourage public transport usage and be greener like Norman Foster intends. However this lead to residential anger, congestion, and the use of more land to develop car parks. My argument is that although the arenas were created with the quality to enhance nearby domiciliary in both an aesthetic and industrious way, the “Berlin arenas did not have adequate architectural design quality or the effects of the architecture are not large enough to assure an effect on the development of the neighbourhoods.

This dispute has a negative impact to the genius of architecture in berlin. Conversely this issue is only apparent in a few examples of buildings that directly effect a little portion of the city. On a scale, the greater amount of successful examples of architectural genius throughout Berlin outweighs one undesirable factor that opposes my avowal. It’s important to note that the city is still very much work in progress even in 2016. More buildings are being developed, reconstructed and expanded from a response to the war. So more success or more probable failure will occur.


To reiterate the context of my argument, I am providing examples to reinforce my statement that the architecture in Berlin is design genius. Upon viewing a wide scope of sources both primary and secondary source, my judgment only advances greater. I have shown that not all architecture in the city has given positive outputs, but have concluded that the negative depress is overhauled by the frequent success in percentage of other buildings. I researched thoroughly to find more negative impacts and residents’ views on the growth of Berlin, with little prevail. Inhabitants favour the advancement their city has resolved. The only negative thoughts were raised about parking issues and property price increscent as mentioned previously with the Velodrom, which barely hampers the genius significance of the architecture. The greatest example explored with genius design is the Reichstag dome, with its contemporary contrast to the buildings archaic antiquity. I believe this to be one of Berlin’s most genius architectural designs, possibly contending to be the worlds’. Norman Foster and his company played a vital role in the cities refurbishment, with Renzo Piano equally as responsible. It takes genius minds to conclude such attentive outcomes. Although other architects contributed to Berlin’s architecture, I feel Foster and Piano were the most successful.

I believe I have shown sufficient evidence to persuade the beauty in Berlin’s architectural aesthetic, as well as industrial and economic benefits it provides. In conclusion there is no doubt that the architecture in Berlin is design genius.




2016 (2000) Berlin. Available at: (Accessed: 12 March 2016).

Ahlfeldt, G.M. and Maennig, W. (2011) ‘Arenas, arena architecture and the impact on location desirability: The case of`Olympic arenas’ in Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin article (accepted version) (Refereed)’, Urban studies, 46(7), pp. 1343–1362.

Lake, Q. (2013) Evolution of the Reichstag building in photos. Available at: (Accessed: 11 March 2016).

Lisa, A. (2014) Foster & partners’ beautiful green renovation of Berlin’s old Reichstag parliament building. Available at: (Accessed: 11 March 2016).

OConnell, R. (no date) Watch stunning color footage of Berlin rebuilding after WWII. Available at: (Accessed: 8 March 2016).

Renzo piano (2008) Available at: (Accessed: 16 March 2016).

Welle, D. (2003) David Chipperfield: 6 thoughts on Berlin and architecture | arts | DW.COM | 01.10.2015. Available at: (Accessed: 16 March 2016).

historylearningsite, 2000 2016 – (2016) The Reichstag fire of 1933. Available at: (Accessed: 8 March 2016).


List of Illustrations

Figure 1, 2 & 3

Lake, Q. (2013) Evolution of the Reichstag building in photos. Available at: (Accessed: 11 March 2016).

Figure 4

Lake, Q. (2013) Reichstag dome mirrored interior, Berlin, Germany. Available at: (Accessed: 11 March 2016).


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