We take a tour of Bikini Berlin, an unconventionally designed shopping centre which opened in the West of the German capital in 2013.
The shopping centre is set against the imposing backdrop of one of Berlin’s most recognisable landmarks, the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. Damaged during the Second World War, the church has had extensive interior restoration work and members of the public can step inside to view the remarkable artwork on the ceilings and walls, which has been painstakingly pieced back together like a jigsaw puzzle with every crack still visible. The roof of the building remains broken off midway, making the contrast between this ornate relic of the past and the more modern, blocky buildings that surround it all the more effective.
The shopping centre’s character is defined by industrial elements that steer clear of the traditional chrome-and-glass blandness that afflicts too many other buildings of this type. Instead of glaring white, the colour palette is dominated by natural wood tones which work brilliantly with the light green shade chosen for the exposed metal supports found throughout. These supports, like the simple, stripped-back lighting seen above, contribute to a rawer, more unpolished feeling than might usually be expected from a shopping centre.
A selection of boutiques is installed long-term in the glassed-off spaces along the sides of the building. Running along the space in the centre, however, is a pick-n-mix of pop-up businesses which rotates regularly, allowing new names and up-and-coming designers to showcase their wares.
The owner of each of the pop-ups is allocated a crate-like numbered “box’ of their own to lay out as they please.
The result is that each of the boxes is decorated in its own distinctive – and often very beautiful – style.
The outside space offers public gathering areas on multiple levels, with a broad staircase providing the ideal spot to sit and eat a quick lunch on a sunny afternoon.
But perhaps one of the biggest draws of Bikini Berlin – especially for those who have a young family – is that the structure backs onto Berlin Zoo. The architects have taken full advantage of this, providing an oversized window that allows shoppers to look out onto the baboon enclosure and get a little bit of wildlife for free. During the warm months of the year, the baboons can be seen going running, jumping, playing with their babies and generally going about their baboon business, all from the comfort of a window seat in a shopping centre. Some weeks there is a pop-up cafe next to the window that serves good coffee for you to sip on while you watch. The window ledge is scattered with cushions and is a laid-back place to sit and read for a while; although if you’re banking on
The building may not look particularly impressive from a distance, but it is the inspired design of the interior and the many little details found throughout that make it special. For example this exterior wall has been textured in slightly wonky cement lines, creating an off-kilter look entirely in keeping with the shopping centre’s eccentric character.