English Architect, French Charm, and Berlin Salon Culture: the Palais Varnhagen has been completed
The last gap in Berlin’s Französische Straße has been filled. Where once the city’s most expensive city-centre car park sprawled across nearly 1,700 m2, the palace in Berlin’s Mitte shines in all its splendour, bathing in all-day sunlight thanks to its southern exposure. The Palais Varnhagen, built by Artproject and Baywobau, looks exactly as the architect David Chipperfield envisaged it.
The view in from Französische Straße opens onto the courtyard and the Scotch pines and shrubs of the raised terrace – designed by landscape architects BBS Landscape Engineering. Framed by the Berlin headquarters of the Deutsche Gesetzliche Unfallversiche¬rung (left), RTL’s Berlin studios, the representative offices of the state of Bavaria, the Bayerische Landesbank, and the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society, the aesthetics of the sandy-coloured exposed concrete on the facades of the ground floor and the two-storey penthouse compliment the mineral plaster mixed with coloured sands of the first to the fifth floors.
During the planning and construction of the Palais Varn¬ha¬gen, David Chipperfield was also working on spectacular large-scale projects such as the Forum on Berlin’s Museum Island and the James-Simon-Galerie, Museum Island’s new entrance building. Yet Chipperfield often finds it harder to design quality residential structures in dense urban settings than to realize ambitious museum projects: “In the case of the Palais Varnhagen we were dealing with a property that is surrounded by fire walls on three sides. The trick here was to secure plenty of light for the future building.” The architects achieved this through the special arrangement of the building shell, which follows the model of the hôtel particulier. In this type of architecture, the central section of the plinth level facing the street opens to the sky from the second floor up, allowing a lot more light to reach the side and rear wings of the building. The important thing, Chipperfield explains, is that the ground floor remains closed at pavement level so as not to be fragmented. With the Palais Varnhagen, Chipperfield has once again transformed historical construction forms into modern architecture.
A lobby of some 55 m² offers residents and their visitors a place to meet, greet, and linger while also serving as a workstation for the concierge. The exclusive, superior-quality interior was developed and implemented by architect and designer Pia Hölzel. The bronze-trimmed smoked oak panels, large bronze mirror, counter, and room dividers were custom produced according to her designs. Velvet upholstered sofa groups in vintage designs on hand-woven carpets and attractive lighting provided by sculptural lamps complete the effect.
The keys have already been handed over for the fifty residential units. The buyers and residents come from all over Germany as well as Switzerland, the Benelux, Greece, Cypress, Turkey, Russia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Lebanon, India, China, and Hong Kong. Palais Varnhagen is a true “global village” – not in the sense of the World Wide Web, but as a reflection of Berlin’s urban environment.