RRP’s competition-winning scheme was widely seen as a milestone in the post-war architectural history of the city - the lightness and inventiveness of the scheme’s architectural language was intended as a powerful retort to the image of Berlin as a grey and monumental city. It marked the practice’s first involvement with Berlin and opened the way for RRP’s contribution to the debate about the rebuilding of the former German capital after the removal of the Wall. In particular, the proposed observation tower created a powerful termination to the Berlin skyline.
The tower was designed as a light and dynamic structure, its primary constituent uses clearly expressed and articulated. Although a private building, it was to allow public access both at ground and roof-top levels. The site, formerly occupied by a routine 1950s block, is close to the Kurfürstendamm, Zoological Garden, and would have formed an interesting counterpoint to the shattered tower of the nearby Kaiser Wilhelm Church (the latter often seen as a symbol both of Berlin’s past history and its continuing regeneration).
The debate engendered by the scheme focused on the issue of its height – at the time (prior to the Potsdamerplatz redevelopment) this would have been one of the city’s tallest buildings. The ‘gateway’ nature of the design was highlighted by the dramatic mast-like service towers carrying lifts and communications technology and framing the vast 10-storey central atrium which gave the scheme its name – ‘Zoo Window’. Designed for fast-track construction on a concrete frame, the building features a highly economical approach to climate control.
Key to the scheme was the intention to create a mixed use landmark - much more than just an office tower for the client, a major brewery company, it included conference facilities, hotel, a public restaurant, a great public retail plaza and an observation deck. It shows RRP dovetailing public and private activities to create one of the ‘people’s places’ which have been a central concern of the practice’s work from the beginning.