architecture of the future
In the past decade, Berlin has gone from being a home for artists to becoming the hotspot for start-ups in Central Europe. The sudden arrival of start-ups has had its negative impact in Berlin, rising rents and living costs but also attracting lots of entrepreneurs and pioneers. Start-ups are driving technology and shaping the future, introducing innovation and change in society – but how much power do ordinary people have?
Minutes away from the Hauptbahnhof lies Futurium – the newest hub for innovation in Berlin. Futurium was built to empower the citizens of Berlin, and the rest of the world, to be agents in shaping the future of our society.
When we think about the future, no issue is more important today than the construction of sustainable cities. Reducing the environmental impact of our buildings and urban areas is essential to undertake the great challenge of climate change and build a greener future.
Architects Christof Richter and Jan Musikowski designed the Futurium building to be an ambassador of sustainability, an example to drive innovation and technology from the core of the city of Berlin. Richter and Musikowski describe Futurium as “the smart container for the future, a window into the future of technology and society”.
Breaking the aesthetics of its urban surroundings with sharp edges, and tiled windows, the house of the future resembles a space shuttle about to depart. More than 8000 panels containing folded metal reflectors and textured glass line the building. During the day, the facade reflects the sky, while during the night it unveils what happens inside.
The rooftop of Futurium is covered in solar panels, providing renewable electricity, and solar thermal panels, heating Futurium’s water supply. The electricity is stored in batteries providing a constant energy supply for Futurium and its surrounding buildings.
The Futurium thermal energy storage system is the first one of its kind to employ phase change materials at this scale. A phase change material (PCM) is a substance which stores and releases thermal energy when changing phases from solid to liquid. Futurium employs a hybrid storage system heated by solar panels which combines paraffin disks (a highly efficient PCM) inside water tanks. This allows a continuous thermal energy supply for hot water and heating, increasing the building’s energy efficiency by eight times.
Besides achieving high thermal and electric standards, the roof structure also collects rainwater for cooling and watering, and invites the visitors to enjoy stunning sights of the surrounding Bundestag and Spree river from the Skywalk.
The aim of Futurium is not only to serve as an example of sustainable architecture but also to create an inspirational place to work that encourages collaboration and stimulates creativity.
The programme of Futurium, packed with workshops, exhibitions and conferences, will focus on three aspects: nature, technology and human interaction. Similarly, the Futurium building is divided in three areas: an exhibitions centre, a conference centre and an underground ‘cave’.
While the rest of the building shines for its open spaces and lightness, the cave sits on the opposite side of the spectrum. Dark-coloured exposedconcrete, black asphalt floors and a ceiling grid made of 126 fluorescent screens conjure up a dramatic atmosphere worthy of Christopher Nolan’s best sets. In fact, the Futurium cave was designed to serve as a “batcave” for the Futurium, where all the gadgets of tomorrow are created.
The Futurium cave is home to the Futurium Lab, a hands-on technological playground for people of all ages to explore the future. David Weigend, Head of Education and Participation at Futurium told us that the purpose of the Futurium Lab is “to provide the tools for the citizens to work practically and creatively towards the future, become entrepreneurs and realize their dreams”. As he pointed out, this kind of platform is currently missing in Germany, and serves as a bridge between audiences and policy makers or scientists.
The Futurium Lab will be composed of a fully-equipped fab lab including 3D printers and laser cutters, as well as a multifunctional area with workshops and activities ranging from bio design, artificial intelligence and architecture.
The Futurium Lab will also host a temporary display based on open source technology which behaves as a living and changing organism, shaped by the audience. The aim of the Futurium Lab is not only to promote transdisciplinary and transgenerational collaboration, but also to show that future makers come from all kinds of backgrounds.
The Futurium Lab was created to show that in order to build the future, we need a broad variety of individuals, from artists and designers to engineers and programmers. Futurium is an innovative and playful space where we can explore new advances in technology and learn new skills, but more importantly, Futurium is here to remind us that it’s not just up to experts to design the future but that it is an everchanging reality to be created by all of us.
The Futurium is open now