The Shell Building on the Reichpietschufer in Berlin-Tiergarten is a landmark of architectural modernism, built as an office building in 1931 during the Weimar Republic.
The Shell Building (Shellhaus) is an example of organic architecture because of the visual language from which the design drew inspiration, reminiscent of the movement of water. It was designed by Emil Fahrenkamp and built between 1930-32 as the headquarters of the Rhenania-Ossag mineral company, a Shell subsidiary.
An example of organic architecture
Walking on the southern bank of the Landwehrkanal it is difficult to miss it. Its unique features consist of an undulating façade recalling water ripples ascending from five to ten storeys. Ribbon windows wrap themselves around the buildings façade corners. In architectural terms it is interesting as an example of one of the first steel-frame structures and curved glass.
Restoration of the Shell Building
The building underwent a great deal of additional restoration until the present day. Paul Baumgarten's free-standing towers were added in 1968 on the north side and different restoration concepts competed with each other. In the end, preference was given to preserving the building's original exterior and interior as much as possible even though this meant leaving out modern requirements such as insulation as this would have altered the original depth or profile of the windows. Renovation on the building began in 1997. Today it is used as an office space by the Federal Ministry of Defence.
Typical of the modernist office buildings known for their rationalistic aesthetic, lack of ornament and innovative horizontal facades is the twelve-storey Kathreiner building on Potsdamer Strasse, built by Bruno Paul as Berlin’s first tower block consisting of twelve storeys and two lower wings with a horizontal travertine façade.
Shell Building Information
- Emil Fahrenkamp
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Last edited: 19. November 2015