Bertelsmann AG, capital city office, Berlin

Production and installation of the bar counter, media library, Lindensaal wall panelling

Completion 2002


Berlin’s boulevard is a euphonic capital city ensemble of state opera, the Crown Prince’s Palace, the Neue Wache (“New Guardhouse” memorial) and the Berlin Arsenal. Here Berlin comes face to face with itself and its history. This architecturally harmonious picture is now to be rounded off with the restoration of the for the new Berlin branch offices of Bertelsmann and the Bertelsmann Foundation. The former home of Berlin’s town major once stood on this site. The Berlin Senate imposed conditions on the purchase of the property to ensure that reconstruction would remain faithful to the original architectural appearance, its original proportions, its classical façade. Bertelsmann awarded the contract to the Cologne-based architectural firm of Thomas van den Valentyn and to the Berlin-based firm of Stuhlemmer Architekten (reconstruction of the historical cladding). In contrast to the exterior, the architect T. van den Valentyn had free design reign inside. That provided the opportunity to combine a historical style with perceptibly more contemporary light-infused architecture. The intent was to do justice to Berlin’s history without turning the building into a museum. The solution realised reveals a free-flowing floor plan, an open, spacious stairwell and large-scaled glazing of the winter garden to pay ultimate homage to the element of light. Old and new discernibly blend inharmonious unification. In the words of the architect: “Bertelsmann is like a physical business card for the company and not just an office building. In its lavish transparency, the building opens up the city and thus comes across as the headquarters for communication in more ways than one.”
Now to Hellerau’s contribution: media library, wall panelling and ceiling in the Lindensaal, café entrance, production of the bar counter in the club – all subject to the highest demands. The bar is clad in a combination of dark Macassar veneer and a burgundy-coloured, curved glass front. The hardest part to construct was the stainless steel base for the glass front. A ceiling of bright alabaster seemingly “floats” above the counter. The back-lit alabaster slabs are borne by a fibreglass truss system. The light/dark contrast thus created is a design element which is carried on throughout the entire building. The ceiling of alabaster and fibreglass elements is secured by suspended metal rods. Affixing the flagstone demanded no less than absolute craftsmanship because alabaster is an extremely soft stone. But everything fell into place here, the new capital city office of Bertelsmann, .

Text: Rainer Baginski
Photo: Bernadette Grimmenstein