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The Futurium, a striking cuboidal structure that seems to take off from north to south, is refreshingly different within the context of the nearby government quarter with its boldly overhanging roofs and partly reflectant, partly transparent outer skin. Designed by RICHTER MUSI¬KOWSKI Architects, the building was actually completed two years ago. But, in the way the future often has of delaying its entry, it was only officially opened on 5 September 2019. It’s been a real success since, though — within a month it had notched up its 100,000th visitor. The three-part exhibition addresses the future relationship between we human beings and, respectively, technology, nature and ourselves. The enterprise nevertheless does not in any way seek to be a conventional museum and its exhibitions represent but a fraction of what it offers overall. The aim, instead, was to create a laboratory in which people can try out future-responsive things and simultaneously a place for discourse at which the burning issues of our future can be discussed and dealt with at an interdisciplinary level.
The open invitation for tenders to build the Futurium was the first competition the two architects Christoph Richter and Jan Musikowski, who got to know each other at the Housing Faculty at Dresden’s Technical University, had entered together. They set up a joint practice after winning the competition and being mandated to design the building. Such a novice practice is arguably just the right mediator for a building devoted to the future, i.e. to matters that do not as yet exist. On the other hand, the criteria stipulated in the call for competition ruled out any degree of true experimentation from the very outset.
The question presents itself as to what actually does constitute future-responsive architecture these days. Given the alarming rate of climate change, even the latest ecological technologies are insufficient and will soon have to be replaced by new ones. It goes without saying, of course, that the Futurium has been designed as a lowest-energy building, that there are an array of solar panels on the roof, and that rainwater is collected from the angled roof and recycled. Above all, however, it is a structure serving as an architectural framework within which narratives of a future with which no one is yet familiar can take place. “Architecture”, the young architects argue, “needs to be able say as much as a picture to those who behold it.” They aspire to generate architectural experiences that move people and trigger images in their minds.
Photo: © Klemens Renner
“The receptacle is with us”, the archi¬tects state, “and unfolds a narrative framework. And, ideally, the exhibition will take the story further.”
Patterns play a leading role in this architecture. The façade is made up of over 8,000 waffle units that are lent an optically variable, transparent quality by means of folded metal reflectors and ceramically imprinted glass. The main entrances are accessed via a square marked out with dots. A set of stairs encased in dots leads from the welcoming foyer to the first floor. The ceiling to the darkly formulated exhibition space is pleasingly patterned with rows of strip-lights. The “Futu¬rium Lab” located on the ground floor likewise exudes darkness, in this case by dint of black-stained exposed concrete and black bituminous mastic concrete flooring, and is also graced by a ceiling in the form of a grid of light shades.
The foyer and central point of congregation on the ground floor, by contrast, has an airy, open feel about it. Bright surfaces define the space’s atmosphere. The ceiling has been executed as a white, backlit metal grille, the walls have been painted white, and there is bright terrazzo flooring. Day¬light courses through the almost 20-foot-high space. A clear sense of con¬trast is provided by black doors leading in and out and linking the foyer with the adjoining spaces. That they are dark and hence suitably conspicuous is a vital asset in any public building and makes getting around easier for visitors. This purpose is also served by room-high doorway assemblies comprising the actual doors plus the fanlights above, both just under ten feet high.
With this kind of scale involved, it wouldn’t have done, the architects felt, to fit handles that came across as being too “small-minded and appended”. They accordingly opted for fittings with a clear visual identity. The stainless-steel handles stand out well against the blackness of the doors. Handles are one of the few items in publicly used buildings that are actually touched, RICHTER MUSIKOWSKI reasoned, and, as a result, great attention also needs to be paid to their aesthetic and haptic properties when deciding which to fit. They selected the FSB 1045 models on the grounds that they “are nicely shaped, rugged and durable, and a pleasure to take hold of.”
Photos: © Schnepp Renou