Haus der Kulturen der Welt
The Haus der Kulturen der Welt (House of World Cultures) in Berlin is an exhibition center and forum, dedicated to international contemporary arts, located in the Tiergarten park.
History and architecture
Established in 1989, the Haus der Kulturen is housed in the former Congress Hall of Berlin. The Hall was created in 1957 by the Benjamin Franklin Foundation and the Government of the United States as a symbol of reconciliation between the U.S and Germany (actually, the Federal Republic of Germany at that time).
The peculiar shape of the Congress Hall, which is popularly known in Berlin as the Pregnant Oyster (German: Schwangere Auster), was designed by American architect Hugh Stubbins (1912-2006). The building is similar to other saddle-shaped roof buildings made in reinforced concrete quite popular in the ’50s, such as the Dorton Arena in Raileight, NC which clearly inspired Stubbins’ design. On May 21, 1980, the hyperbolic-paraboloid roof suddenly collapsed during a press conference, probably because of material fatigue and structural design errors, killing one.
The roof was therefore redesigned and reconstructed with more modern building techniques (namely in pre-stressed concrete). The former Congress Hall reopened in 1989 as a center for contemporary arts, renamed Haus der Kulturen der Welt.
Aerial view of the Tiergarten park in Berlin with the House of World Cultures on the left; photo: Reinhard Link
Early sketch by Hugh A. Stubbins, 1955, © Hugh Stubbins and Associates
Berlin’s Congress Hall in 1957; photographer: Gerhard Koch
Photo: Reinhard Link
Night view of the House of World Cultures; photo: Pascal Volk
Program of events
The Haus der Kulturen der Welt is not a traditional museum with a permanent collection, it is instead an art center and a public venue for exhibitions and special events focused on contemporary art – intended in a broad sense – including visual arts, music, literature, performing arts, and cinema.
The center pays a special attention to innovative forms of art and creativity, such as digital art and new media, and to international, especially non-European, artists.
The program of the House of World Cultures includes special exhibitions, site specific installations, festivals (such as as the yearly festival of digital culture Transmediale), concerts, live performances, film screenings (including events part of the Berlin Film Festival – Berlinale), lectures, debates, artist’s talks, workshops and educational programs for children and schools.
Along with two exhibition halls, the Haus der Kulturen der Welt comprises a 1,024-seat auditorium and concert hall, a 300-seat theater, three conference rooms, two multifunctional foyers, a bar, a restaurant, a shop, and a 5,400 square-meter roof terrace used for open-air concerts and as an outdoor cafe.
A monumental bronze sculpture by Henry Moore, entitled Large Divided Oval: Butterfly, stands near the building entrance.
Haus der Kulturen der Welt, interior view; photo: Enric Archivell
Exhibition “The Whole Earth: California and the Disappearance of the Outside”, 2013, installation views; photos © Jacob Hoff / Haus der Kulturen der Welt
Kotti & Co + Estudio Teddy Cruz + Forman: Retrofit Gecekondu © Jens Liebchen / Haus der Kulturen der Welt
View of the Haus der Kulturen der Welt with the sculpture “Large Divided Oval: Butterfly” by Henry Moore on the left; photo: Becca
Cover image by Dominik Dome