Museumsinsel underground station Berlin
Star-lit sky beneath Berlin
Where the design of a Berlin underground station is inspired by the stage set Karl Friedrich Schinkel conceived for Mozart’s Magic Flute in 1816, one is keen to know how it might turn out. The “Museumsinsel” (Museum Island) underground station is the last of three new stops filling the gap between the Brandenburger Tor and Alexanderplatz stations by linking the U55 and U5 lines. Its prominent location close to the Humboldt Forum, Berliner Dom and the legendary island museums underscores just how special this multifaceted venture by Max Dudler really is.
The station is just over 590 feet long and, in it, Max Dudler makes play of the themes of “eternal night” and the “lack of natural light underground”. “The idea of engineering a star-lit sky in darkness is a nod in Schinkel’s direction,” Dudler confides. A star-lit sky, after all, was a central motif in Schinkel’s phenomenal stage set for The Magic Flute. And: “the entire area around the museum island derives its very identity from his buildings”. Large-format architectural photographs by Stefan Müller and Philipp Arnold exhibited on the rear platform walls document a number of 19th-century structures in the vicinity, furthermore.
A luminescent ultramarine sky studded with a total of 6,662 sparkling stars arches over the two platform subways in the heart of the underground station. Operating with a conventional suspended ceiling proved impossible for structural reasons. The architects accordingly devised a substructure made up of several curved segments bolted together into which the stars had already been installed. Thereafter, the assembled structure was clad, painted in ultramarine and attached to the station ceiling.
Architecture and object
Photo: Max Dudler, © Pascal Rohé
“Our straightforward conceptual idea serves to reinforce architectural themes already in place at this location: Schinkel and Berlin’s specific brand of classicism, the eternal night of these endless tubes, the Museum Island concourse ... I think all that resonates with people”, Max Dudler suggests.
Sober elegance and grey granite
The star-lit sky is not, however, the only reference made to Schinkel, who was also fond of incorporating colonnades into his work. A “columned hall” formed of solid supports is thus be found on the central platform that functions as a kind of pergola beneath the star-lit sky. Just as on the level above, the piers, floors and walls are lined with panels of greyish blue Kosseine granite of varying size – in random masonry bonds on the walls and in the Roman style on the platform. All ceilings with the exception of the star-lit sky have been coated with white plaster.
The concourses on the first underground level are accessed via four entrances that have been lent consciously low-key looks in deference to their illustrious architectural neighbours. Horizontally aligned luminaires flush-recessed into the walls and stairwells ensure spaces are uniformly illuminated. On the lowest level, longer variants of these luminaires have additionally been integrated into the platform piers. They were custom-developed for the station – as was the handrail and parapet lighting.
In keeping with the materials employed, the architects selected the tubular FSB 1076/1016 handle model by Robert Mallet-Stevens in a Stainless Steel Brushed Satin Matt finish. The lever handles tally perfectly with the Kosseine granite and stainless steel railings whilst subordinating themselves with discreet restraint to doors that are either lacquered in mica-black or faced in natural stone. The handles are sufficiently rugged and durable to withstand the harsh treatment to which they may be subjected in such a setting, properties that echo those typically associated with Dudler’s buildings.
Photos: Stefan Müller