But Germany is still shining. With shiny new buildings, that is. The signature of recent German architecture is clinically voluptuous brushed steel and glass, with a weightless-looking design that creates lots of open space and light. I’m sure these buildings have been made possible by ultra-cool recent advances in building fabrication techniques, but unfortunately I can’t tell you what those might be.
One of my hometown favorites is the Duesseldorf Airport, which was rebuilt in the late 1990s after a most regrettable incident (G). Soaring arc-shaped columns, endless expanses of glass inside and out, and an entrance hall that manages to be inviting and monumental. Since you can see the entire entrance hall from almost any point within it, there’s no way to get lost.
The Stadttor ("city gate") office building is also a gem: it seems to float like an elegant ocean liner of local enterprise:
I wasn’t too impressed with the new Berlin Central Station, since it’s basically a gigantic shopping mall, and there are plenty of those where I come from. However, I granted it some grudging respect when I alighted from the subway platform deep underground and realized that you could look all the way to the canopy above the top platforms, hundreds of meters above. The local and long-distance trains all criss-cross within the station itself, on tracks that seem to float. A bit like those movies with futuristic "spaceports" with ranks of hovering landing pads.
The latest wonder is BMW-Welt, or "BMW-World":
This crystalline chrysalis just received this rave from the IHT’s architecture critic:
I feared that the building itself – a luxury showroom that could double as a theme park for car fetishists – would be a monument to excess. But then the glittering forms of the BMW Welt building appeared, and immediately rekindled my faith in architecture’s future.
Set against a backdrop of hulking factory sheds and 1970s office towers, the building weaves together the detritus of a postwar industrial landscape, imbuing it with a more inclusive spirit. Its undulating steel forms, suggesting the magical qualities of liquid mercury, may be the closest yet that architecture has come to alchemy.
Designed by Wolf Prix of the Vienna-based architectural firm Coop Himmelb(l)au, BMW Welt – or BMW World – joins an impressive list of high-profile architecture projects by German car companies in recent years, including Zaha Hadid’s BMW factory in Leipzig and UNStudio’s Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart.
Whether from a passion for well-built machines or a more self-serving interest in architecture’s ability to promote an aura of technological sophistication, the auto companies are underwriting buildings that combine a stunning level of structural refinement with a flair for formal experimentation.
Slideshow here. [h/t bro.]. I’m no architecture critic, but I know what I like. Unlike gigantic slabs of concrete from the 1970s, I can see these buildings aging well. They might look dated in 20 years, but they’s still be crisp and elegant and exhilarating. May dozens more of them get built.