Literature at Bertelsmann

‘Blue Sofa’ Premieres On Berlin’s Museum Island

In November, On Tuesday, the “Blue Sofa” premiered on Berlin’s Museum Island. For one hour, prominent architects Sir David Chipperfield, Jacques Herzog, Regine Leibinger, HG Merz and Franco Stella discussed topics such as the sense and purpose of contemporary cultural buildings, the current state of urban development and monument protection.

Sir David Chipperfield, Hermann Parzinger, Franco Stella, Jacques Herzog, Vivian Perkovic, HG Merz, Regine Leibinger
The auditorium at the James Simon Gallery
Vivian Perkovich, Franco Stella, Jacques Herzog, HG Merz
Sir David Chipperfield and Vivian Perkovic
Regine Leibinger and Prof Dr Hermann Parzinger, President of the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz
Get-together after the discussion
Regine Leibinger
Hermann Parzinger talking to David Chipperfield

After more than ten years of construction, the James Simon Gallery was inaugurated in July as the central visitor center on Berlin’s Museum Island. On Tuesday, Bertelsmann, the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz, ZDF, Deutschlandfunk Kultur and 3sat invited guests to the first public event – an edition of the literary format “Blue Sofa” – to be held in the new forum of the James Simon Gallery. More than 250 guests, including many architects, conservators, politicians and journalists, followed the invitation to experience the prominent architects Sir David Chipperfield, Jacques Herzog, Regine Leibinger, HG Merz and Franco Stella. All of them are responsible for important construction and redevelopment projects in the German capital, such as the renovation of the Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery) and Staatsoper Unter den Linden (Berlin State Opera) and the reconstruction of the Berlin Palace.
Set against the background of the exploding cost of cultural buildings and wide-spread public cynicism about cachet buildings, the five architects discussed how acceptable their work is. The years of debate about the reconstruction of the Berlin Palace and protests against the construction of the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg have demonstrated the urgency of opening up public discourse on these issues. Architect Jacques Herzog explained that great architecture in decisive locations has the power to reinvent a city and mobilize forces. HG Merz did not contradict him but insisted that cultural buildings must be “more open to the public and their surroundings” in the future. Regine Leibinger pointed out the increasing role of sustainability and digitalization and the fact that affordable housing is currently the most urgent problem for the citizens. All of the architects explicitly agreed with her. Sir David Chipperfield even warned of overloading prestigious cultural buildings with identification-specific claims and neglecting “everyday building tasks” such as the construction of housing and schools as a result. Today, people are increasingly getting involved in discussions about public buildings due to a “fear of losing their city.”