Capital City Culture Talk 2023

"You have to think big"

Norman Foster in conversation with Berlin cultural managers and urban developers

He is perhaps the most renowned representative of his field and has left his mark all over the world. With the Reichstag building and its dome, Berlin owes him one of the city's most visited landmarks and an identity-forming symbol of the Berlin Republic. At the 9th Capital City Culture Talk, the architect Norman Foster discussed with high-ranking cultural managers and urban developers in the James Simon Gallery on Museum Island.

The evening focused on the key question of what architectural characteristics places of culture must have in order to develop into focal points of urban life. After a welcoming address by VBKI Managing Director Ute Weiland, the British master builder explained with great enthusiasm in his keynote speech how the design of public spaces can help to create connections and bring people together. In front of an audience of around 200, he presented his own projects that have set a precedent in terms of modern urban development: These included the redesign of Trafalgar Square and the British Museum in London. He impressively demonstrated how architecture can make a significant contribution to opening up spaces, breaking down barriers, creating permeability, establishing connections and promoting dialog between old and new, between outside and inside. It is always about giving the city back to the people.

In the subsequent discussion, moderated by Prof. Dr. Stephan Frucht, the new Chairman of the VBKI Cultural Committee, the 88-year-old expressed his commitment to the concept of "master planning". Even if it runs counter to current architectural trends, he called on people not to get lost in the minutiae. The opposite is true: "You have to think big!"


"Quality is an attidude of mind"

Norman Foster


Is this also being done in Berlin? Is the holistic way of thinking present in the current urban development debate in Berlin? State Secretary for Culture Wedl-Wilson picked up the ball and emphasized the importance of visions in urban development that extend beyond election periods, while Prof. Hermann Parzinger underlined the need to take social expectations and needs as a starting point when designing cultural venues. Senate Building Director Prof. Petra Kahlfeldt pointed out the importance of an integrative approach to new construction projects such as the redesign of Moltkemarkt: Mobility, sustainability, digitalization and, of course, accessibility - all factors that want to be considered. Where is the limit? Is it the available budget? The star guest of the evening answered the question with a clear no. Quality is a matter of attitude - "Quality is an attitude of mind".

The Tagesspiegel also reported on the event. You can find the article here.


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