Project managemnt: WSP-CBP Beratende Ingenieure GmbH
Light planning: Conceptlicht
Visual communication: Moniteurs
Open space planning: WES Berlin
Better Late than Never: BER Airport in Berlin
Client: Flughafen Berlin-Schönefeld GmbH
General planning and object planning: Planungsgemeinschaft Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg Willy Brandt (gmp Generalplanungsgesellschaft mbh, JSK International Architekten und Ingenieure mbH
Structural engineering: schlaich bergermann und partner, Schüssler-Plan Ingenieurgesellschaft
A Compact Building of Short Pathways
In view of its endless back story and snowballing costs, the central airport terminal appears surprisingly compact. It is a clear building of short pathways: there are only two escalators to carry passengers from the subterranean railway station up into the high, spacious departure hall. This hall is by far the most generous area in the building; in terms of design, it is also the most convincing. One reason for this is the fact that the supporting structure conceived by Schlaich Bergermann Partner, which features cross-pillars 30 m in height set at intervals of 43.75 m, is reduced to the essentials. The rear-spanned cable-truss façades, which are 20 m tall, do without vertical supports; the installation engineering is completely concealed in the generous roof structure and the walnut-veneered cubes of the check-in counters. Metal, wood and a Jurassic limestone floor create a three-part harmony that continues through all the public areas of the airport.
No Surprises, Nowhere
The organizing principle behind the building is literally all-encompassing. The architecture has been meticulously determined: the floor-plan module measures 6.25 metres, the plan for the extension elements 1.25 metres. No deviation from the rule of perpendicularity can be found here. The single formal gesture that gmp Architekten have allowed themselves is the imposing flat roof that links the landing side of the airport with the take-off side. Above the approach, this roof juts 50 m from the façades. However, because 60 to 70% of future passengers will arrive by public transport, only precious few will ever get to see the building from this perspective. It does not showcase the airport: the forecourt to the airport is broad and dreary. The raised approach has been placed before the terminal like a barrier and works against the opening gesture of the extensive hall.
In contrast, the view enjoyed by landing passengers is one of the building’s strengths. Long piers surround the main structure on three sides in a horseshoe shape. The passenger bridges, some of which have two levels, give rhythm to the west and south sides at regular intervals of 43.75 m. Here, the architects deliberately chose not to create any mobile “fingers”. Rather, they designed fixed, cubic volumes of concrete and glass that are anchored via floodlight masts to the broad asphalt surface in a way that is both practical and symbolic.