GRAFT was commissioned to develop the new BRICKS complex on the grounds of the former Postfuhramt (post office) between Hauptstrasse and Belziger Strasse in Berlin Schöneberg close to Acacia Kiez. The ensemble is a mixed-use complex of new buildings and renovated historical buildings with three courtyards partially linked.
The design of the new building picks up the materiality of the historical buildings (dating from 1900 to 1928) reinterpreting their brickwork façades in a new, contemporary form. The brick facing undulates softly at the top and bottom like fabric to create a sense of sculptural depth, at the bottom receding inwards to draw people from the street into the passage to the courtyard.
To begin with, part of the area will be made publicly accessible and then successively redeveloped in stages. The unused roof spaces of the post office and boiler house will be converted for commercial use, then the roofs of the side wings and cross wing (damaged during World War II) rebuilt and converted into offices. The provisional roof of the switching exchange, erected during the war, will be dismantled and likewise converted for commercial use.
GRAFT’s design envisages a total of 128 new apartments, 107 on the Hauptstrasse and 21 on the Belzigerstrasse, along with 35 commercial units for offices, retail and restaurants, as well as a primary school, spaces for the university, a taekwondo school and Kabbalah Centre. The Kabbalah Centre was completed in 2015 and occupies a 7.5m-high space on the third floor that originally served as a telegraph switching exchange. GRAFT’s concept translates one of the central ideas of the teaching of Kabbalah – gradual perception as spatial development along a path – and interconnects all the space from the entrance up to a flexible lecture hall and a generous staircase to a second level that appears to float freely inside the hall. A giant mirror on the rear wall, visually extends the space, the reflected rhythm of the arches causing the space to appear twice as deep.
The entire development is based around a concept of respectful interaction between old and new and the completion of the existing ensemble making contemporary use of the traditional brick material.