DAS HAUS DER DREI RELIGIONEN/ THE HOUSE OF PRAYER AND LEARNING BE

DAS HAUS DER DREI RELIGIONEN/ THE HOUSE OF PRAYER AND LEARNING BERLIN: UNITING THREE RELIGIONS, CHRISTIANS, MUSLIMS AND JEWS, IN ONE BUILDING

Kuehn Malvezzi architects has won the competition for the House of Prayer and Learning Berlin, a most unusual project that will gather a synagogue, mosque and Christian church in one single building, in an effort to stimulate an interreligious dialogue. Max Borka reports.

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(this image ::  The first price awarded design by Berlin-based architects Kuehn Malvezzi. Photo © Kuehn Malvezzi)

Initiated by the Protestant parish St. Petri-St.Marien, Berlin, the institute aims to mirror and underscore present-day German society, and its melting pot of religions and cultures, by creating a shared building for the three main monotheist religious communities that shape the face of city today: Christians, Jews and Muslims. Multi-religious halls and buildings already exist elsewhere, for example at airports. In Bern, Switzerland, one is just being built to cater for six different religions. Yet none of these projects is as radical in its effort to generate a dialogue. After the winning proposal was presented to the public a few months ago, there’s now also a book showing all 38 entries to the international architecture competition – and published in German and English, but also in Hebrew, Turkish and Arabic. The project was launched some two years ago, in an effort to bring life back to Petriplatz in Berlin’s Mitte district. In the years 2006-9, excavation work had uncovered the foundations of a predecessor church at the square that dated as far as the 13th century. Over the centuries, four churches had been built on the spot, in line with the ups and downs in the city’s fortunes. The last of them was erected in 1853 to Neo-Gothic designs by Heinrich Strack, but after the structure suffered severe damage in World War II bombing raids, it had been torn down in East German days. Since that time, Petriplatz has stood empty, until the excavations began. After two years of planning, the not-for-profit “Petriplatz Prayer and Teaching Hall” association set up for the purpose hosted a closed architectural competition, in which renowned international offices such as Mario Botta or Jürgen Mayer H. participated. The brief was carefully defined: the prayer and teaching hall had to fit on the footprint of Strack’s church and to integrate the archaeological finds into the new building. The preferred material was brick. The building had to unite the three religions in a single building but also has to treat them separately. To this end, the brief stipulated that there be a central hall that functioned not only as a transition to the three individual prayer rooms but also symbolically and manifestly expressed the co-existence of the religions. Finally, the hall was to represent the sublime, and had to demonstrate this in its approach of light. The jury, chaired by Hans Kollhoff finally opted for the classical proposal submitted by Berlin-based “Kuehn Malvezzi”, certainly not the most innovative and striking entry to the competition. But it blends quite harmoniously into its urban surroundings, which consist mainly of apartment blocks. The church-like 32-meter-high powerful tower cum cube, also unite architectural typologies of all three religions, while the three separate prayer rooms cite classical Christian, Jewish and Muslim places of worship in terms of the ground plans used. It will no doubt still need some time flow until the edifice is realized, as the money needed for the construction work needs to be raised by donations. And how the building then gets received by the respective religious communities and actually gets used is still anyone’s guess. The picture book traces the process, with essays by Gregor Hohberg, the vicar of the Protestant parish of St.Petri-St.Marien, and his colleagues Tovia Ben-Chorin, rabbi of the Jewish community in Berlin, and Imam Kadir Sanci, Muslim religious scholar and member of the “Forum für interkulturellen Dialog” (mb)

Das Haus der drei Religionen
Bet- und Lehrhaus Berlin. Entwürfe für einen Sakralbau von morgen. Gregor Hohberg & Roland Stolte (eds.)
Essays in German, Turkish, English, Hebrew and Arabic
Hardcover, over 180 illustrations, 268 pages
DOM publishers, Berlin, 2013 EUR 48
www.bet-lehrhaus-berlin.de

www.kuehnmalvezzi.com

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