News from the woods

On the edge of Grunewald forest in southwest Berlin, Constructlab realised Waldraum, an experiential space for social encounters, for the Brücke Museum, which houses a large collection of works by members of the German expressionist movement “Die Brücke”. A transparent and permeable shell allows transformations from outside to enter the inside space: an open and bright room for art-making and meetings between human and non-human elements. The unobstructed view of the natural surrounds is in keeping with architect Werner Düttmann‘s 1967 concept for the museum building itself.
The new building offers the Brücke Museum an additional space for working with different publics and neighbourhoods. Placed in the museum’s garden as it borders with the edge of the forest, the Waldraum – in its materiality and grey energy – sits in dialogue with the seasons and the surrounding trees, positioning the visitor as a guest of the museum’s surrounds. For the realisation of this hybrid building, which consists of a rough, raw wooden shell and a glass industrial greenhouse, the architects focused on situational thinking and a locally-oriented mode of working: the wood is sourced partly from the garden of the Brücke Museum itself and the surrounding forests, while the greenhouse is a recycled industrial product. The slat-like wooden outer shell can be adjusted depending on the light situation, providing as much shade as possible during warmer seasons and letting in as much light as possible when temperatures are lower. Sustainability and resource conservation determined the entire design process and implementation.
The use of wooden materials for the outer shell means that the space blends into the natural environment. The greenhouse itself, however, forms an energetically and technically efficient cultural space in contrast to its natural surrounds. It creates a transparent space, allowing visitors to have an intensive and direct experience of nature – which was also key to the work of the artists of Die Brücke themselves.


The garden serves as an extended space for the museum, especially in spring and summer: events, meetings, talks and exhibitions take place here. In this way, the Brücke Museum joins the tradition of many international museums. Parallel to the conception of the Waldraum, the landscape architects of atelier le balto carefully renewed the garden of Brücke Museum over a period of 1.5 years. Their growing plan was drawn before, during and after onsite horticultural work and repeatedly supplemented in close conversation with the approach to the Waldraum practised by Constructlab. Atelier le balto’s approach is informed by a quote from Bertholt Brecht:
“As the garden grows with the plan, the plan grows with the garden.”
(Garden in progress – Bertolt Brecht: Poems Volume VI 1941-1947)


We look out of this garden into Grunewald (Berlin’s largest urban forest). The Brücke Museum’s proerty at Bussardsteig 9 mediates the transition from the city to the forest; the pines, rowan and birch trees on the museum property mark it from afar. For those arriving, the property “hides behind garden walls, through which the partitioned-off piece of forest becomes a garden around the house that one enters as a guest”, as the museum’s architect Werner Düttmann once put it. The trees are, in a sense, exhibits of the museum garden, but also remnants of a time before the appropriation of this plot of land. They are also a representation of themselves, the representation of an idea, an order, a possible other society: The anarchy of the forest by Joseph Beuys or the surface d’échange (surface of exchange) coined by Francis Hallé …


The Waldraum has come into being and will pass away. Quite unconventional within contemporary building practice, the architecture is made of materials that age and dissolve, which can be assembled and disassembled. It is conceived from a circular perspective in acknowledgment of the continuity of things in change and in the forest. The tree trunks, the material of both the Waldraum and the forest that surrounds it, have their own rhythm that leads us humans through the seasons soberly, with a firm, level-headed step, that, in turn, demonstrates the transience of human-built spaces.
In the face of our rapid physical decay, humans are left with the possibility of turning to the provisional, to moments of creation and the potential of transformation. The Waldraum attempts to make this transformation visible through an aesthetic of the in-between, while maintaining a constructive spirit. The origins and future potentials of all components remain legible within the construction. Addressing and thematising the construction process means making the feeling of being in the flow of change tangible. In this analogy, the forest is always a continuous process of creation.


Constructlab’s ideas thus take a counter-position to a wide-spread approach to the production of space, which is oriented towards maximum passivity, permanence and hermeticism, using environmentally harmful, non-degradable materials. Instead, Constructlab works with thin skins and layers that fulfil specific functions and are largely reversible. The Waldraum embodies a contemporary and innovative building practice that is climate-friendly and uses and conserves existing resources and energies. Solar energy, wind, and the forest, which itself uses its own climate regulation through shading and humidification by its trees, can also be used by the Waldraum at different times of the year. The greenhouse provides a completely transparent rainskin, while the wooden structure shades and veils, adapting to the context. The floor is a light, floating wooden structure, alongside ten columnpoint foundations that support the greenhouse. Electric floor heating can warm the space relatively quickly when required. In summer, shades protect from the sun and the room is fully ventilated, whereas in the transitional seasons, the heating power of the sun is used efficiently to create a comfortable climate inside. Humans themselves and their behaviour also have a positive effect on the microclimate inside: group use is a source of heat (approx. 80 KW/h), just as a conscious attitude, combined with blankets, can be an energy-saving measure. Constructlab draws on both the highly developed technologies of agricultural greenhouses and simpler but efficient techniques for regulating the climate, such as the manually operated shading technology reminiscent of a kinetic sculpture – which was custom-designed for the space. The entire structure moves in this field of tension and can be viewed as a starting point for experiencing and experimenting with space in dialogue with nature and the resources at hand.




Bussardsteig 9, Berlin, Deutschland


From: December 14, 2020
Until: August 29, 2021



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Image Credits: Constanze Flamme (photography), Laurence Crouzet, Florine Schüschke, Mascha Fehse (drawings)