The skyscrapers that will transform Berlin's iconic square

More than a quarter of a century after the architectural competition, construction is finally underway. Not everything is going smoothly.

Alex of the future? On the left, the high-rise by Signa; in the middle (with slot), the Covivio Tower by Sauerbruch Hutton; on the far right, the 150m Alexander Tower by Monarch.<br>
Alex of the future? On the left, the high-rise by Signa; in the middle (with slot), the Covivio Tower by Sauerbruch Hutton; on the far right, the 150m Alexander Tower by Monarch.
Photo: Signa/Kleihues+Kleihues

Berlin - The plan dates from 1993. Twenty-eight years ago, architect Hans Kollhoff won the urban planning competition for Alexanderplatz with the idea of building around a dozen high-rises at the square in Mitte. Each one was to be 150m high and they were to form a "city crown". For a long time, nothing happened because no one saw a need for new towers on Alex. It wasn't until 2019 that the Russian investment group Monarch began construction work on the first tower.

Monarch's Alexander Tower is going up directly next to the main entrance of the Alexa shopping centre on the corner of Grunerstraße and Alexanderstraße. With 35 floors above ground (and four underground) and a height of 150m, it will be the tallest residential building in Berlin. The design by Ortner + Ortner envisages the construction of 377 flats ranging in size from 24 to 423sqm spread over 29 floors. The remaining storey will house offices, a gym, a club lounge, a pool, a wellness spa and a restaurant. The tower is scheduled for completion in 2023. At least that's what was said when building began. Work is underway, but no floors are yet visible above ground.

Rooftop gardens

Next to the Park Inn hotel, the real estate company Covivio plans to build a 130m high-rise directly on Alexanderplatz. "We're pleased to have received the building permit in March 2021," says Covivio spokeswoman Barbara Lipka. "The planning as well as the tenders for the project are proceeding according to plan." The plan is to complete the project by 2024/2025. According to a design by architects Sauerbruch & Hutton, the tower and a lower building will house a daycare centre, offices and rental flats, a roof terrace of around 1,600 square metres with garden areas, as well as communal areas and retail spaces. A "gastronomic offering" is also planned.

Covivio Tower. Planned completion is 2025.
Covivio Tower. Planned completion is 2025.Photo: Sauerbruch Hutton / Luxigon

The fact that the Covivio Tower, unlike the Alexander Tower, will only reach a height of 130m is due to a change in the way high-rise planning is handled. Katrin Lompscher (Die Linke), who headed the city's urban planning department from 2016 to mid-2020, made sure that the skyscrapers not yet planned would be oriented towards the Park Inn Hotel so that views of the TV Tower would be less obstructed.

Problematic U-Bahn tunnel

Not far from the Covivio site, Signa, founded by Austrian businessman René Benko, hopes to build a 134m office tower next to Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof. The department store is to be enlarged in the process. The design comes from the architects Kleihues + Kleihues  under whose direction Kaufhof was refurbished years ago. Signa has received a preliminary building permit, confirming the viablity of the project. Signa submitted the building application in December 2020. "We expect approval in summer 2021," says company spokesman Sebastian Schmidt. Construction is scheduled to begin this summer and the project is expected to be completed by the end of 2025.

A planned high-rise project from Hines, a US investor, is progressing differently. Hines wants to build a 150m residential towere next to the Saturn electronics outlet. Starchitect Frank O. Gehry won the competition to build the tower in January 2014. But the building is to be built on foundations dating back to 1930 and the U5 line runs directly through the foundation. BVG wants to prevent potential damage to the line by the construction work. Although Hines and BVG have agreed that there are technical solutions to safeguard the U-Bahn, the urban planning department doesn't want the project to proceed until the transport company and the investor have signed an agreement. The project is on hold until that happens.

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