The Intimacy of Space (10 mm V)

Berlin and Bloomington have few things in common, besides their first letter B.

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Of more general interest is probably that both cities feature a building by Chinese architect I.M. Pei. I wrote about the Art Museum in Bloomington in an earlier post. Here you see the German Historical Museum in Berlin, or rather its extension.

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I would call this building an invitation to explore the esthetic possibilities of dysfunctional space. The helicoidal stairwell, it’s most prominent feature, connects only the second to the third floor and extends further without purpose to a non-existent fourth floor. It’s placed inconveniently at the (sharp) entrance corner of the building. Climbing these steps has as its main purpose to be climbing these steps. They are gorgeous.  

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The more functional connection between the ground floor and the first floor is a long ramp leading to the helix. Like everything else, it is pushed to the side, so that as much of the empty space of the building remains intact.

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What we see while walking this building are the structural elements that connect. Above is a view down into the basement level, reachable through the escalator or an angled stairwell (at the bottom).

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What I found striking and inexplicable is the harmony and balance between the playful round elements like the helix or the circular opening above, and the cornered, straight-edged, almost brutal structural components.

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It’s tempting to call these the male and female aspects of the building. No matter, it lives from the dialogue between the two. 

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