Federal Foreign Office, Berlin

Interior fittings and restoration of seven conference halls

Completion 1999


The Federal Foreign Office is now back in Berlin. With its official address being “Werderscher Markt”, it’s a building of historical as well as extraordinary architectural interest. Originally built and used as the seat for the German Reichsbank from 1934 to 1940, it accommodated the Ministry of Finance after the Second World War and later the SED Central Party Committee, the power brokers of the GDR (former East Germany). Yet it was here that the first free elections of the “People’s Chamber” were held in 1990 and votes cast in the “House of Parliamentarians” on the Unification Treaty. There were functional changes over the years, there were also some structural changes, but one thing has always remained constant throughout: Deutsche Werkstätten Hellerau always received the nod for the interior fittings. Our expertise was also enough to satisfy Professor Hans Kollhoff, who was in charge of the most recent spate of rebuilding activities. In some areas, existing elements were carefully restored in accordance with the original plans from the Deutsche Werkstätten Hellerau archives. Thus, the office which Günther Mittag presided over during the East German era was left true to its original, a veritable time capsule. As was the former politburo hall. One floor below is the former plenary assembly hall, now the European Hall. The old was combined with the new here. For example, the interpreter cabins added at the rear of the room blend in virtually seamlessly with the original pear-wood panelling. Commissioning a spectacular construction for its time, Heinrich Wolff, former construction director of the Reichsbank, ensured that teller area 1 in the middle of the vast space received direct daylight through two banks of windows in the ceiling. Kollhoff had the ceiling, destroyed in East German times, faithfully restored to its original details and added new walls, which Deutsche Werkstätten Hellerau produced with a classic wainscoting design. Today, the so-called World Hall serves the Foreign Office as a conference centre. Access to the two lobbies is through 14 noise-control double doors, three metres by three metres in size and 146 millimetres thick. Each door leaf weighs 350 kilograms, both door leaves together 700 kilograms. To ensure that all the trims, doors, ceiling and wall panelling are perceived as one uniformly-hued whole, the entire veneer for the room was cut from a single European cherry tree trunk. Roughly 180 years old, the tree came from France and yielded twelve cubic metres of wood, which made 6800 square metres of veneer. An average cherry tree yields merely 1000 to 1500 square metres of veneer. This ancient tree trunk, a genuine rarity, was specially measured for Deutsche Werkstätten Hellerau, allowing us to produce a perfectly uniform veneer sensation.

Text: Anke Müller
Photo: Ivan Nemec