Since April 9, 2014, the International Congress Centrum in Berlin has stood silent. With the aspired reactivation of the historic structure, the ICC will become the ICCC, the International Center for Contemporary Culture. The ICC is a dialogue machine, a Gesamtkunstwerk, an architectural statement and a promise for the future.
 
A rapidly changing society and its quickening technological progress call for venues that can react dynamically. The ICC has been providing such a space since 1979. We propose a new, intelligent small-scale division within the larger spatial machine, fitting into the original concept like a glove.
 
Not to conserve – but to optimise. From its huge aluminum shell to the interior signage, the door handles and coat hooks: this architectural icon should be preserved with the utmost integrity and as close as possible to its original form. Interventions should be made in the spirit of the original architecture –with inventiveness and innovation.
 
The ICCC will be a vibrant, open space. We wish to develop it together with the city of Berlin and investors, activating a diverse network of individuals at the interface of art, politics, science, media, business and culture. In bringing these forces together, the ICCC will become a dynamic future laboratory for us all: a center for contemporary culture and social innovation.
 
We aim to facilitate a flexible use for creative and artistic dialogue: congresses, presentations, events, labs and exhibitions; workspaces, studios and ateliers for creative work in various fields, in combination with hotel and gastronomy services. After all, in addition to a technical update, the ICCC requires above all: a clear, thematic profile as an outstanding, overarching statement of Berlin.
 
We are a collective of professionals from cultural and architectural circles who have been working with curiosity, enthusiasm and a critical attitude towards a new application of the ICC since 2013. Bureau N (Silke Neumann), Julia Albani, Florian Heilmeyer and Something Fantastic (Elena Schütz, Julian Schubert, Leonard Streich), together with a broad, national and international network from the worlds of art, culture and architecture.

Photographic tour:

Analysis

The International Congress Centrum Berlin (ICC Berlin) is a futuristic machine, a spaceship with a dynamic function, shining silver in amid the infrastructure junction between the AVUS, the Ringbahn tracks, and city motorway. Designed by architects Ursulina Schüler-Witte and Ralf Schüler, construction began in 1975. On 2 April, 1979, the 313-metre-long, 89-metre-wide, 40-metre-high convention center opened its doors. It is unique to not only Berlin but the world. A more fitting harmony between the symphony of the big city and “high-tech” architecture is hard to imagine.

International und Berlin Relatives

Even in its current, somewhat unkempt state, 40 years after its opening, the ICC remains a pinnacle of “high-tech” architectural futurism. Comparable buildings can only be found internationally in the Centre Pompidou (Paris, 1977), the Lloyd’s building (London, 1986), Sears Tower (Illinois, 1973) or Hearst Tower (New York, 2004). In Berlin, it is likely to be grouped with the exceptional architecture of the Umlauftank 2 (Tiergarten) and the Berlin TV Tower.

The Fun Palace, an intellectual forerunner, was a project by architect Cedric Price and director Joan Littlewood (1961). It describes an entirely flexible, culturally populated structure whose interior would be consistently modified. Although the project was never realised, it significantly influenced the thinking and imagination of architects such as Richard Rogers, Norman Foster, Renzo Piano and Rem Koolhaas – and certainly Ralf Schüler and Ursulina Schüler-Witte.

Photographic tour:

The ICC is a Gesamtkunstwerk

Within this group, the ICC Berlin occupies an exceptional position. Due in part to its mere dimensions but also its unique accessibility via nearby transportation and ingenious construction method. The venue is perhaps the world’s largest “house-within-a-house” construction, which ensures that the interior of the building is completely separated from the noise and vibrations of its surroundings. Finally, the aesthetics of the building make it truly outstanding. Associations with a machine, an airport or spaceship are evoked from both the ICC’s exterior and indoor details – from the doors to the signage system, handles and coat hooks.

Two large auditoriums on the upper floors: Hall 1 (5,008 seats) and Hall 2 (3,520 seats) are situated around a common central stage, adjustable in height so that both rooms can also be used together. The seating grandstand in Hall 2 can be folded in its entirety into the ceiling to create a “ballroom” with maximum flexibility. The foyer and access areas in the building are incredibly spacious, creating a pleasant area for strolling, on the one hand, but also resulting in approximately 10-15% of the total area being individually usable, “sellable” space. Out of approximately 200,000 sqm GFA, only 30,000 sqm can be used for conferences, according to the Messe Berlin. Costs: The building was nearly fully occupied in 2012, still hosting large conventions with up to 20,000 visitors and achieving that year the highest turnover in its history. There was however a considerable renovation backlog, especially in all technical facilities. Maintenance and operating costs in 2012: 23 million euros. Estimated renovation costs: 400 million euros (as of 2014).

Photographic tour:

The levels

Entering the ICC, one passes through the spacious ticket hall onto the boulevard designed to accommodate information counters, seating areas, showcases and cloakrooms, located on lower levels on either side of the space. The reception area covers 3,587 square metres. Serving as a central meeting point, the café/bar located in the central foyer is joined by a striking light sculpture by Frank Oehring, which runs through three floors. It symbolises the networked connection of all the building’s technical infrastructure. At the centre of the southern entrance of the building is the ICC Lounge, a self-contained space measuring 272 square metres.

From the reception foyer, the side staircases lead to the gallery level. There you will find 17 conference rooms with an average size of 35-45 sqm and space for 10 to 20 people. The rooms located in the east and west areas of the building can be easily combined or leased individually, almost all of them exposed to a great deal of daylight. Access to the second level, a foyer characterised by spacious seating areas, and rooms sectioned into central, east and west groupings, is granted by three escalators in the east and west sections, as well as the large main staircase. Here a total of 3,216 square metres of open space gives way to various utilities, including the exhibition and lounge usage seen thus far.

On this level, several rooms without daylight can also be found: the striking Hall 6 in the centre seats up to 200 people in a parliamentary atmosphere. In its immediate vicinity Halls 4/5 and 7, cover 260 square metres and offer space for 270 people (when seated in rows). Entrances to the third-largest hall in the building, Hall 3, are located in the northern part. The windowless hall with fixed seating boasts a capacity of 800 people.  To the south of the central foyer, Hall 8 similarly has no access to daylight and a capacity of up to 130 seats over 130 square metres.

 

The “Pullmann Lounge” restaurant enjoys a nive view of Neue Kantstrasse. Directly adjacent are the lounges “Columbus”, “von Stephan”, “Lilienthal” and Zeppelin”, and just a short ways away on the same level the “Kock”, “Langenbeck”, “Sauerbruch” and “Virchow” lounge areas offer capacities between 20 to 70 people.

Combining Hall 1, the Stage and Hall 2 results in a total capacity of 9,100 seats. In Hall 2, the grandstand installation can be raised to the ceiling of the hall, transforming the auditorium into a 2,500-square-metre level for exhibitions, lavish events and festive occasions – the so-called “ballroom”. The double-sided stage, connecting Hall 1 and Hall 2, has a size of 770 sqm and is approximately 35 m wide. Hall 9 and Hall 10 are located above Hall 8 and have a size of 170 sqm. The roof garden foyer with 380 sqm offers space for up to 306 people (with row seating), and from here you can access the terrace with a panoramic view over Berlin.

The three-storey bridge structure forms the connection to the convention centre and the exhibition halls 14.2 and 15.2. It offers space for flexible utility on the foyer level (350 sqm), 10 conference rooms (30 sqm) and multipurpose rooms (110 sqm) on the salon level. On the hall level, 10 cloakrooms (with individual bathrooms), as well as technical and meeting rooms, lead off from a central boulevard.
 
The multi-storey car park located at the southern end of the building complex has direct access to the motorway and offers 650 parking spaces.

Quotes

Built in 1973-79 according to the plans of architects Ralf Schüler and Ursulina Schüler-Witte, the International Congress Center (ICC) is one of West Berlin’s most distinguished constructions of the postwar period. In its role as a venue for international conventions, it stood for the global orientation of this isolated city on the front lines of the West. At the same time, the polished silver sculpture conceals a striking unity of aesthetics and function. The protection of the ICC pays tribute to the exceptional nature of the building and also documents the great public interest in its preservation.

– Christoph Rauhut, head of Berlin’s state monument office

 

“The Sun Machine is coming down” is only a small part (that lasted a few days) of a larger dream of giving the ICC a new life. It involves Berlin’s dizzying growth in recent years, the second life as a startup incubator of the not-so-distant former Tegel airport, and the fact that the ICC is a listed building and it is very unlikely that it could be a convention centre in the age of Covid-19 and Zoom meetings. According to Silke Neumann of Bureau N, it’s time to speed up a redevelopment project that dates back to the first half of the last decade. Adding a “C” to the original name.

– Alessandro Scarano, domus, Dec 2021

 

Unused since 2014, the International Congress Centre is an architectural behemoth that deserves to buzz with the polyglot chatter of global trade and industry gatherings as it did in its 1980s heyday…. One proposal for the building is to use it as both a cultural and convention centre, renaming the building the International Centre for Contemporary Culture (ICCC). “The architects actually intended the ICC to function about 50 per cent of the time for congresses and the rest for additional events,” says Julia Albani of Berlin-based communications agency Bureau N, which developed the concept for a private investor. 

– Stella Roos, Monocle Forecast 2022

 

Built in 1979, the ICC, designed by architects Ursulina Schüler-Witte and Ralf Schüler, is a unique example of high-tech, futuristic architecture, whose machine and spacecraft aesthetic can be traced to the smallest of details. Featuring two large auditoriums with a shared central stage, a large foyer and various amenities, the project was highly praised thought its operational phase. The building closed its doors in 2014, and the same year, a concept was put forward for the reactivation and conversion of the structure into an International Congress Center for Contemporary Culture, developed by Bureau N, Julia Albani, Florian Heilmeyer and Something Fantastic. Although the idea gathered public attention at the time, the fate of the building and the refurbishment project is yet to be established by decision-makers.

– Andreea Cutieru, ArchDaily, Oct 2021

Concept

ICCC – INTERNATIONAL CENTER FOR CONTEMPORARY CULTURE BERLIN

Premises

 

1 The ICC Berlin is a Gesamtkunstwerk, from its huge aluminium shell to the interior signage, the door handles and coat hooks. An “interior demolition” threatens this work of art – the casing is worthless without the contents. It should be preserved with the utmost integrity and as close as possible to its original form.

2 It is precisely the unique interior and exterior aesthetics that form the basis of our redirection for the use of the ICC. Even today, it continues to provide the building with an original and unmistakable identity. An enormous amount of potential lies in the appreciation shown for such unique venues, especially within the cultural and creative industries.

3 At the same time, the ICC urgently needs to be modernised and economically renovated. A smart, spatial division into smaller units should be defined. The necessary technical refurbishment should be used to create additional indoor space and eliminate spatial shortcomings (such as a lack of suitable partitioning options) without compromising the fundamental character of the spaceship. With clever extensions and modifications, the ICC can be further developed into a new vessel with contemporary standards. The planned but never realized elements, including a hotel, represent a logical continuation of the original ideas

4 Not to conserve – but to optimise.  Interventions must be made in the spirit of the original architecture; with the same inventiveness and innovative power.

5 The foyer and intermediate zones are often described as flaws. But they are a core feature of this perfectly designed dialogue machine. From the very beginning, the spatial structure of the ICC has been to facilitate not only presentation but above all free, spontaneous communication. This is a characteristic unique to the building, relative to convention centres worldwide, and it coincides with the latest concepts of how to think about the working world today, especially in the creative and cultural industries. Dialogue and exchange are more important than ever across industries and disciplines. From these anchor points, a continued-use concept is being developed, with which we will preserve large portions of the ICC (inside and out), while at the same time updating and modernising the building, realigning it both thematically and economically.

What is contemporary culture?

Flexible and spontaneous. Zeitgeist. The ICCC should function as a dynamic place where art, culture, politics, science, everyday culture, media and business intersect. Its spatial structure is designed for flexibility, a quality expected of the ICCC’s content in the future. It is not a matter of now defining content for the next 20 or 30 years, but rather, tapping into considerable and long-lasting potential for development. This potential can be identified particularly in the basements and the current multi-storey car park, the redesign and conversion of which will benefit the overall effect of the ICCC. This is where permanent use-areas will be located, creating spatial and content-related synergies with the new profile of the ICCC, ensuring an economically viable utilisation concept.

 

Profil and operating company

The ICCC will have its own operating company with dual leadership: An artistic director and a commercial director will jointly steer the thematic orientation and economic viability of the project. A 12-member international advisory board will connect the ICCC to the regional, national and international art and culture scenes, together with creative industries, teaching and research. This ensures a high degree of flexibility and a high occupancy rate with thematically appropriate events in this unique location. A balance of long-term tenants and temporary occupants is essential to sustain the building continuously and without compromise.

Fixes & flexible

In addition to long-term tenants who strengthen and define the thematic profile of the ICCC, certain rooms and areas – including those in cooperation with Messe Berlin – are made available for temporary events. The spatial concept should be flexible enough to provide customised spatial arrangements for small-scale events. Permanent and temporary workplaces, exhibition and screening areas for film, video and photo-art, interdisciplinary research and laboratories in the fields of programming, net culture, gaming, hybrid publishing, electronic music, time-based media, moving images, etc. are all conceivable.

24/7

The ICCC will be a lively, open, future-oriented centre with a diverse but thematically intentional focus, enabling fruitful exchange between its many visitors and tenants. As far as possible, the permanent tenants should be selected in such a way that their programmes regularly activate the open areas of the building in temporary timeframes. Congress and convention use in conjunction with the exhibition grounds and Messe Berlin are maintained. This is where international summer schools, think-tanks and research institutes come together; TED or DLD conferences find the perfect location for their future-oriented gatherings;  new forms of art, new media, digital culture and heritage are discussed and explored;  new infrastructures of City 2.0 and novice forms of democracy are tested;  and where festivals for electronic music, new media and art are held. International artists in the city meet art critics, collectors and curators here to discuss trends and practices in the art business. Large-scale, expansive, experimental installations are trialed, discussed and evaluated at the ICCC. Special collection profiles find their storage in the ICCC and remain visible to the city through curated “openings” in the Schaulager für Berlin.

Location and networking 

The ICCC will remain a close venue for Messe Berlin, whose dense programme will continue to require additional space despite the additional CityCube congress centre. Intelligent and thematically coordinated cooperation (for events, exhibitions and temporary office space rental) is an integral part of the ICCC. The location is a vital junction – therefore the objective of networking with its immediate surroundings: the SFB, BMW Welt, City West, Ku’damm, Theodor-Heuss-Platz, the TU and UdK campuses as well as the future usage of Tegel Airport. As an architectural icon and dialogue machine, the ICCC can guide cultural developments. Galleries and the art scene have long been transforming the western part of Charlottenburg, a change that will no doubt continue. Coupled with the rising rents in the central districts, spaces along the Ringbahn are becoming particularly interesting. Developments at the ZOB, the motorway triangle and on the site of the Grunewald train station should also be taken advantage of.

The new usage

Zone 1: A dialogue-machine and performance centre: congress and conference operations, alongside usage as a performance space for concerts, theatre, dance, cinema, film production, lectures, readings and test screenings.

Zone 2: A production and laboratory machine for artistic ideas and innovation: studios, co-working spaces and flexible meeting lounges – as vibrant and dynamic as Berlin itself!

Zone 3: An open boulevard with small showrooms and cafés.

Zone 4: A catering concept adapted to the various tenants and visitors, consisting of a restaurant, canteen (including catering for large events), bars and cafés: everything on three floors (including the entrance floor).

Zone 5: Art display warehouse, art storage (“bounded space”, duty-free warehouse) and distribution space for art collections with Black and White Cube venues (exhibition and test installations, presentation and screening rooms) as well as storage/archive facilities for other tenants in the building.

Zone 6: Labs, workshops and learning facilities: an experimental area for external universities and summer schools.

Zone 7: Hotel complex with roof terrace, spa facilities and integrated flats (temporary living) with a direct and smooth transition to the main building.

Zone 8: Working studios for international scholarship holders and artist residencies.

Zone 9: Integrated retail for the arts and creative scenes (sound, film, photography, video, art and design) adapted to the users, tenants and visitors of the ICCC.

Zone 10: Parking garage and internal development and traffic routing.

Zone 11: Forecourt with thematic landscape architecture and design: installations, sculpture garden and outdoor area for restaurants and urban gardening.

 

 

INITIATORS

WE are Bureau N – Silke Neumann; Julia Albani; Something Fantastic – Julia Schubert, Elena Schütz, Leo Streich and Florian Heilmeyer.
 
The concept “ICCC” was created in 2014 for the open-call to develop a usage, renovation and financing concept for the International Congress Centrum Berlin (ICC), issued by the State of Berlin, represented by the Senate Department for Economics, Technology and Research. Our client was a private investor. Now, almost a decade later, it is time for the discussion around the ICC to pick up speed again and for a dialogue between politicians, stakeholders and investors to be revived.
 
We would like to thank the photographers Nuno Cera, Noshe, Zara Pfeifer and Elena Schütz for generously providing us with their images.
 
Concept and coordination 2014: BUREAU N, Silke Neumann, Julia Albani
Consultants: Florian Heilmeyer, Maike Cruse, Something Fantastic (Elena Schütz, Leonard Streich, Julian Schubert), Zara Pfeifer, Caroline Wolf
External experts: Philipp Albers, Alain Arnaudet, Stephan Balzer, Christian Bräuer, Ralf Broeckmann, Carson Chan, Jan Edler, Tim Edler, Holm Friebe, Konstantin Grcic, Martin Heller, Andreas Krüger, Sophie Lovell, Niklas Maak, Johannes Odenthal, Fred Pawlitzki, Christian Posthofen, Christiane Riedel, Florian Schmidt, Ursulina Schüler-Witte
Editing: Julia Albani, Florian Heilmeyer, Assistance: Tamara Regosz
Art Direction: Something Fantastic

 

Important notice:
This report was prepared based on information independently researched and produced by the author. Previously unavailable materials announced as part of the investor competition (plans, studies, analyses, photos, etc.) could not be consulted. Future consequences and conclusions as well as inferences from this material, which has yet to be sifted through, may contradict and correct the premises and recommendations formulated in this report.

Kontakt: 
hello@iccc.berlin

 

Imprint:
Subject to the German regulations § 5 TMG:
Silke Neumann, Naunynstraße 38, 10999 Berlin, Germany
E-Mail: hello@iccc.berlin
Responsible for the content after § 55 Abs. 2 RStV: Silke Neumann