The House of One, a house of prayer and learning for the three monotheistic religions, will be the first building of its kind. It will be built on the historic foundations of one of Berlin’s oldest churches at Petriplatz in the centre of Berlin.
Winning the international competition in 2012, Kuehn Malvezzi have been commissioned to design and realise the House of One. The core concept of the proposal is the idea of diversity within unity: each faith will have their own, specific place for ritual while the calm, geometric form of the building envelope unites the different spaces and creates a coherent appearance within the context of the city. Throughout the building a sequence of public spaces is intertwined with the places of worship, creating a framework for dialogue and exchange: among the three religions themselves and between the religions and their largely secular urban environment.
The structure is a fair-face brickwork construction built on the remains of the Petrikirche in Berlin, Germany. The church’s perimeter—including the chancel—is retraced by sitting the new construction on the foundation walls of the former church. The exterior of the House of One is characterized by the tranquility of its cubic appearance. The building conveys its presence within the city using staggered heights that emerge above the surrounding urban fabric and make it recognizable as a special place. Large, undisturbed fair-face brick surfaces distinguish it from the facades of the surrounding residential and commercial buildings. Specific openings in the brick facade characterize the sacred spaces within the building. These are located around and united by the domed central hall. The geometry of the interior spaces forms an intentional contradiction to the external cubature of the building. The balance between unity and diversity, a core concept of the House of One, is communicated in the detachment of the internal room forms from the outward geometry of the building. The division between outside and inside is re-united at the threshold of specific openings. In the external wall, on the other hand, the distinction between the cubic external body and the differently shaped interior spaces, sculpted as voids from the building mass, is articulated. The sacred spaces are being specifically developed in collaboration with each of the religious communities while a double-story domed hall in fair-faced brickwork serves as a central meeting space.
PLACES AND ROUTE
The House of One is a sequence of places. These are located in the city and within the interior of the building like stations along a route. Each place fulfills its own purpose, and together these places form a dynamic ensemble of situations. The double height entrance is located on the north side, at the end of Brüderstraße, and leads into the generous public entrance hall, drawing the external public space into the inside of the building. The public route leads from the external space of the plateau to the central interior space. From here it continues vertically through the building, culminating in the rooftop loggia at a height of 32 meters.
A raised open space extends to the north of the House of One. Its generous external stairs and ramp connect it to the street, while a half-height perimeter wall creates a protected external space. Defined by the opposite façade of the former ‘Hertzog’ department store and three existing trees, this external space mediates between the noisy urban environment and the tranquility of the sacral building. The southwest orientation of Petriplatz makes it ideal for external café seating and as a public place for social interaction.
A seven-meter high arcade continues the theme of the colonnades along Gertraudenstraße as a public route. At the same time, being a sculpted space within the external envelope of the building, the arcade also belongs to the sequence of internal spaces within the House of One. Generous openings in the facade visually connect the arcade with the archaeological zone inside the building. It acts as a source of natural light and ventilation as well as a filter between urban space and archaeological excavation.
In the basement of the House of One an eight-meter high hall contains the archaeological excavation of the former Petri churches. Its perimeter walls sit on the foundation walls of the neo-Gothic church dating back to 1853 serving both as protection and as an aid to the visibility of the old fragments.
The entrance is raised by 1,5m so that the archaeological route can pass underneath it, crossing original floors and along foundations and fragments of the former church, including its old chancel.
RECEPTION AND STAIR CYLINDER
A generous opening in the brick facade marks the main entrance at the top of Brüderstraße. Via the entrance area with adjacent security lock the visitor arrives at a double-height cylindrical foyer. Affiliated to this is the café whose seating extends also to the foyer and the external terrace on the plateau. The central area of the foyer is surrounded by a generous spiral stair. On this the visitor ascends towards the upper floors in a circular movement while overlooking the archaeological site on the way.
Via the main staircase, commencing from the intermediate story, the visitor enters the central domed hall at +8,70m. It serves as a central meeting place and as a space for public events such as lectures, concerts and exhibitions. It seats around 300 people, of which 94 seats are located within the central circular space on the main level. The domed hall is the connecting point between the three sacred spaces that are located axially around it. It is itself an independent space of encounter, whose tranquil sublimity invites the visitor to pause and rest. Its galleries are gently inclined and as such form part of the continuous circular ascent towards the rooftop loggia. A fixed bench along the perimeter of the main level and the galleries offers extra seating for events and an opportunity for pause and spontaneous dialogue. On their way to the rooftop loggia visitors can see exhibits from the yearly calendars of the three Religions in full height vitrines alongside the main stair.
The three autonomous sacral rooms are assembled around the communal domed hall. Their design and furnishing are developed individually to serve the three communities as separate places of worship. The sacral spaces are accessed independently to ensure the possibility of them being used individually at any given time. The design and characteristics of each of the rooms will be developed specifically with the religious communities. The differences in their character and internal appearance will be visible on the outside of the building by means of distinctive openings. Rooms for the clergy and auxiliary rooms, such as ritual washrooms, are in direct proximity to the respective sacral rooms. The synagogue, church and mosque all contain their own separate galleries.
The freestanding building is completed by the protected open space of the city loggia on top of the tower. At 32 meters high it is not only providing a view over the city but is also a visible landmark on the city skyline. Being the final level of the central space it is another space for gathering and meditation. The cupola-lantern of the central space, visible on the city loggia, forms a visual link between the central space and its urban environment.
The interplay between fair-faced brickwork and daylight forms the building material of the House of One. Surface and opening, boundary and threshold, earth and transcendence find their expression here. A variety of luminous perforations in the brick walls characterize the different spaces in the house. Arcade, domed hall, and city loggia are united by the theme of the ‘dissolved wall’ as a filter for different levels of public space. However, each of the sacral spaces is characterized by its distinct illuminating perforation of the brick wall. These openings give form to each internal space and clear distinction to the different facades.