Competition for the smartest heads

In 1991, the government of Berlin published an invitation to tender for urban construction without participation of the plot owners and investors. The designs were to contain general prescribed drafts for construction on Potsdamer Platz and Leipziger Platz which could later be a basis for the orientation of individual investors to draw up their architectural designs.

The design selected by the state government came from the Munich architecture office of Hilmer and Sattler, which contained structured details for the overall competition area: block construction with a save height of 35 m, accentuations with higher buildings on Landwehrkanal and Potsdamer Platz and a road grid strongly oriented to the historic design. An alternative draft compiled for the investors by Richard Rogers initiated discussions with the state government which led to a more flexible version of the proposals made by Hilmer and Sattler. On the basis of the urban planning competition, the investor Daimler-Benz launched an architectural competition for the group's own plot in March 1992. In coordination with the Berlin state government, which had an equal say in the jury deciding on the award of the commission, seven foreign and seven German architecture teams were invited. Architects of international acclaim who were experienced and specialised in urban planning were agreed upon. The decision was met with 20 : 1 votes for the draft by the planning group Renzo Piano / Christoph Kohlbecker.

One of the major benefits of this draft was the convincing solution for connecting the area to the cultural forum plus the inclusion of water areas within the construction. The central point of the area was to lie at the point where the Alte Potsdamer Straße ended in a dead end below the huge and repelling east façade of the state library according to the draft by Piano: all around the 'piazza', as Marlene-Dietrich-Platz was called in the planning phase, is where Piano/Kohlbecker grouped buildings with the strongest public character: hotel, theatre, casino, restaurants, the retail trade and the IMAX theatre (today's BLUEMAX).

The square was conceived as an ensemble of individual buildings. The theatre and casino can be seen as a new east side placed before the library; the large joint protruding roof encloses the square like a foyer. A direct east entrance to the library is placed in a viewing angle to Potsdamer Platz. Under the management of Renzo Piano, six more architects' offices were commissioned with the planning of buildings: Arata Isozaki (Tokyo), Christoph Kohlbecker (Gaggenau), Hans Kollhoff (Berlin), Ulrike Lauber and Wolfram Wöhr (Munich), José Rafael Moneo (Madrid) and Richard Rogers (London).