The forecourt of the educational forum Urania was reconceived as an open entrance connecting the institution with Berlin’s City West. Hosting around 1,000 events and over 250,000 visitors a year, Urania is an important institution for transferring scientific knowledge to the broader public. The task was to create a space that communicated the magic of modern sciences. Given the amount and range of events it is expected to host, the aim was to make the forecourt as multifunctional and flexible as possible. It acts as an extension of the foyer while providing space for outdoor catering or temporary exhibition structures and events.
From micro to macro
The event program of Urania includes sciences from the largest to the smallest scale. Accordingly, the design takes inspiration from a video experiment by Charles and Ray Eames called Powers of Ten, which bridges astronomy and microscopy. The film, which focuses on a couple picnicking in a Chicago park, zooms out by powers of ten until it reaches outer space. It then zooms in on the couple again until a single proton fills the screen. The result is that the two ultimate dimensions of observation, the micro and the macro, render very similar images: individual elements moving along fixed tracks in a wide and empty space.
With its precise and minimalist forms, the design for Urania is based on the idea of these movements, while leaving the question of dimension open, whether galaxy or atom. In this way it refers to the founding principle of Urania: the contemplation of science at both extremes of the scope. The forecourt is spatially defined by an alteration of the ground surface, a clear shift from the pavement of the sidewalk. The glittering jet black of the poured asphalt is inlayed with narrow, shiny-gold ribbons of aluminum bronze. These intersecting, radiating lines constitute physical paths, whose dimensions and spatial relationships to one another remain indeterminate. The arcs relate to the building, leading to its entrance and emanating into the city. The black asphalt surface propagates the dark stone plates of the foyer, extending this interior space outwards. The reflection of the gleaming ribbons in the dark glass facade of the entrance area creates an additional visual link between interior and exterior.
Project location: An der Urania 17, 10787 Berlin, Germany
Design year: 2012
Year Built: 2017
Photos: © Hanns Joosten
Film still: Charles and Ray Eames (1977) ‘The Power of Ten’