Formally essential, symbol of a new tolerance, a never-attempted prototype for a place addressed to the three monotheistic religions.

 

House of Prayer and Learning at Petriplatz

location: Petriplatz, Museumsinsel, Berlin-Mitte (Germany)
client: Bet- und Lehrhaus Petriplatz e.V. (Berlin)  
status: 2012, honourable mention competition 
with: Linazasoro & Sanchez Architecture - group leader (Jose Ignacio Linazasoro, Ricardo Sanchez, Madrid), Andrea Cavani
consultants: Andrea Ugolini, Marco Pretelli
collaborators: Alessandro Molesini, Sergi Artola, Hugo Sebastián de Erice, Sergio Alarcón, Francesco Boni, Chiara Mariotti
program: House of Prayer and Learning (church, mosque, sinagogue, documentation centre for the three religions, congress space, archeological area over ruins of old St. Petrikirche)

 

A PROTOTYPE FOR A UNIQUE PROGRAM

The peculiarity of the design is to create a place for the three monotheistic religions that conjures up a common cult of the One God as a symbol of religious and cultural coexistence. It is something new because there has been no attempt to create such a building; this should not be interpreted as a singularity, but as a symbol of the new tolerance that can be generalized. Therefore, the project is not only exemplary , but also a prototype, a new possible typology. This is understood as the sum of the cult rooms around a common space. We propose two main purposes for this design: on one hand, something that allows a new unity of predetermined elements to emerge and, on the other hand, to find the expression of each of the cultic places in their most essential forms. In this sense, we want to avoid all kinds of artificiality and seek a formal essence and simplicity.

THE EMPTY SYMBOL OF THE ONE GOD. VERTICALITY AS UNITY OF EARTH AND HEAVENS

In the cult rooms, God is worshipped by the three religions and the respective liturgy, but THE empty space is what really embodies a common divinity: the last mystery that embraces our existence and to which we tend. This empty space is therefore the core of the design. It is not a purely functional place, but the symbol of the essential unity of the three creeds around the one inexpressible god who is present in all things. Instead of being a cult space, it will be a symbolic space. The design is conceived as a highly vertical space symbolizing the unity of the heavens and the earth, as well as the exposure that represents the elevation from the earthly to the place of light, the presence of the One. The access takes place through a staircase, on the ground floor level, from the street where the common areas are located, the rooms of the cleaning and the library. Climbing the stairs lets you enter cult rooms via empty spaces as well, which is an attitude of exposing earthly values until you come to a piano nobile where the mosque, the synagogue and the church stand are located. Thus the light in the core of the project will be transformed into the "emanation and metaphor of God" (Dionysus of the Areopagite). The zenith illuminating the emptiness also symbolizes the scrality of the place, which the three religions share. From the exterior, the tower becomes a city milestone and a religious symbol.

THE MEMORY OF THE PLACE AND THE TRUTH

The destruction of historic Berlin was particularly concentrated in old Cölln, of which almost nothing is left after the disappearance of a neo-Gothic church. Nevertheless, the recent excavation of the rubble allows the recovery of its memory. Therefore the new structure, "nourished by history," is fully integrated with the ruins, seeking to achieve a new balance between the new and the old, with the lowest material and formal resources. Therefore, we want to show their presence, both inside and outside this new building: the plan of the old church is thus both protected and displayed in an archaeological crypt accessible from inside or outside the building. In this way, the urban character of the intervention is maintained and a continuity with the public exterior flooring is achieved.

The walls of the house of worship rest on the rubble, which emphasizes the continuity of this house with the vanished church. This crypt is lit by window bars in the new perimeter wall. The interior space of the crypt could be provided with a wooden floor cut through the old walls and laying the most outstanding remains to the day; In this way, the usual webs are avoided. This would allow for a more comfortable passage through the ruins, as well as placement in the midst of a lecture hall, the use of which can be shared by the House of Prayer. Finally, the rubble is not only respected in the project, but also considered part of it, emphasizing its presence from outside and inside. Therefore, an architecture is used which, thanks to its means of expression, is understood as both the result of a historical process and a complete object. Thus, he is able to reactivate the interrupted process from the rubble of the medieval church, in the name of the albertine concinnitas, which can be translated as "continuity of pre-existence." In fact, as Auguste Perret has written, we believe that this architecture should "beautify the ruins."

THE BUILDING AS A PROPOSAL FOR A URBAN CONVERSION

The new building also tries to be an instrument of urban renewal by regaining the scale of the old ruined city, and not just because of its connection with the rubble and the history of the place. In this sense, its volumetric fragmentation - the result of its response to the program - is transformed into a regeneration of the urban scale, as it evokes the scale of ancient buildings, in contrast to the gigantism of the communist era. Moreover, the new tower, which encloses the empty space and represents a urban milestone, is proportionally projected to this new and recovered scale and follows the line of old Berlin towers in the junction of the Bruderstasse with the Gertrudstrasse. The closest reference would be the tower of the ruined church or the tower of the present town hall, because both, like the old towers of the Gothic churches, were designed with a small statute of the town typical of the urban fabric of a European city. This was achieved not only by a suitable scale, but also because they belonged to a lower building that connected them to the rest of the urban tissue; in this way, they were not isolated buildings. In the proposal these conditions have been taken into account.

A TIMELESS ARCHITECTURE AS A PRINCIPLE OF SIMPLICITY

The design turns out to be a twofold prototype. On one hand as an expression of a new typology, which is completely unique. The aim is that each of the temple rooms, such as the mosque, the synagogue and the church, preserves its identity; therefore, an architectural language characterized by a formal simplicity is used. Above all, a language allowing simple and manageable construction systems. The condition of the monumentality that the building must have, requires the opposite of what one would normally think, timeless forms and references to the memory of architecture and the city. In this sense, we propose a series of references: not only the ordinary forms of churches, mosques and synagogues, but also the medieval Berlin tradition of brick, recovered in the 19th century by Schinkel and her disciples from a fusion of the Gothic and the Classical, whose followers were Behrens and Mies van der Rohe.

A MONOMETRIC ARCHITECTURE

Building with a single material has always been the goal of every monumental and symbolic project. In our case, the architecture of the brick itself is located in the building academy or in the town hall, but we also have more recent examples such as AEG architectures. This material is also part of the memory of the place as a reminder of the ruins and the Hanseatic Hansa architecture of the old Cöllns. We want to use the brick in its purest expression, both outwardly and inwardly, as the basic material of the design. In the interior, as in many Hansa churches, the bricks are whitewashed, so to create a slight light reflection; on the exterior façade, its natural color, dark-red and irregular is mantained.