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.


Alle News­let­ter­bei­trä­ge

The con­cier­ge lob­by in the Palais Varnhagen
Illus­tra­ti­on: Minigram

View over the rai­sed ter­race in the courtyard
Foto: Maxi­mi­li­an Meisse

View over the rai­sed ter­race facing out onto Fran­zö­si­sche Stra­ße, Foto: Maxi­mi­li­an Meisse