Aug 27–Dec 31, 2021

The Kulturforum as Utopia

The Transformation of a City Quarter
Matthäikirchplatz, 10785 Berlin Map
Tue–Fri 10 am–6 pm, Sat/Sun 11 am–6 pm

In its six-part exhibition presentation for the project Utopie Kulturforum, the Kunstbibliothek provides an introductory overview of the historical development of the area between the Landwehr Canal, Potsdamer Platz and the Tiergarten park. Great dreams and Berlin reality became inextricably linked in the Tiergarten quarter from 1841 on and later manifested at the Kulturforum. The Prussian rulers and citizens of Berlin were gripped by a fascination with Italy in the 19th century that shaped styles of architecture and of life. Following modernism’s brief interlude, the National Socialist dystopia Germania and the Second World War led to the disappearance of the former Tiergarten quarter.

The Project Utopie Kulturforum
The Berlin Kulturforum’s current design has been shaped by utopias, resulting in a place where the effectiveness and ambivalence of those visions can be experienced through both their successes and failures. The institutions located at the Kulturforum – the Stiftung St. Matthäus, Neue Nationalgalerie, Kunstbibliothek (Art Library), Kunstgewerbemuseum (Museum of Decorative Arts), Philharmonie and Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin (SBB, Berlin State Library) – have joined together to present the project Utopie Kulturforum (The Kulturforum as Utopia). Decentralised exhibitions, local discussions and art activities highlight the history of these utopian aspirations that have guided the site’s planning.

After 1960 the concept of the Kulturforum emerged from the distress of that loss but was doomed to remain just a vision. Its beginnings were marked by a double negation: the final demolition of the Tiergarten’s heavily damaged historical buildings, now marred by the structural remnants of the Nazi dictatorship, and the rebuffing posture of socialist Germany behind the Berlin Wall. With the removal of the war ruins, the buildings, the quarter’s history and its residents’ fates of expropriation, expulsion and death were disposed of and forgotten.

Its new beginnings embraced an American perspective. The Kulturforum was planned as a mono-functional, car-oriented cultural hub in the shadow of the Berlin Wall. Even after sixty years of development involving urban planning initiatives and competitions, the venue is still perceived by many visitors as an unfinished wasteland lacking identity and ambiance – as a non-place. Numerous architectural designs and plans for developing the site have failed to materialise. They are presented in the exhibition and the accompanying film by Knut Klaßen and Carsten Krohn.