Kirche am Hohenzollernplatz
Jorge Pérez de Lara, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Kirche am Hohenzollernplatz in Berlin – “God’s power station” full of colour

The Kirche am Hohenzollernplatz, or Church on Hohenzollernplatz, is an Evangelical church located in Berlin’s Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf district. The building is considered a leading example of brick expressionism and a testament to the exceptional quality of church architecture in Berlin. The church’s name, derived from the square where it stands, was originally intended to be temporary, but eventually became permanent.

In the first decades of the 20th century, the number of new residents in the parish grew significantly, making the existing three churches insufficient for the growing Evangelical congregation of Wilmersdorf. In 1927, the prosperous parish decided to build a new church. The competition for the design of the church was won by the Hamburg firm Fritz Höger with a design by the architect Ossip Klarwein, whose concept was partly modified by Höger. Klarwein moved to Berlin shortly before construction began to personally oversee the project. Construction continued from 1930, and the church was officially opened on 19 March 1933. Soon after completion, Klarwein and his family emigrated to Palestine to escape Nazi persecution of German Jews.

1935. Photo by Carl Dransfeld † 1941-11-09, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Kirche am Hohenzollernplatz

The extreme modernism depicted in the design was the subject of much debate before construction began. The basic structure of the church is a concrete skeleton on which the walls are supported. The façade is decorated with bricks arranged in pilasters, semi-cylindrical structures on either side of the entrance where the staircases are located, and a tall, slender bell tower. The greenish copper roof contrasts with the dark red brick. The entrance portal is finished with striking mosaics arranged in crosses. The huge nave consists of 13 arched reinforced concrete girders. Looking from the west entrance, the bays give the impression of tapering towards the east. The interior of the church, despite its modernity, is reminiscent of monumental Gothic, which gives it a unique character. These features have earned the church the nickname Kraftwerk Gottes (God’s Power Station). A rectory and a parish hall were built next to the church.

Kirche am Hohenzollernplatz
Gunnar Klack, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Kirche am Hohenzollernplatz was severely damaged during the Allied bombing of Berlin during World War II, and was consumed by fire on 22 November 1943. After the war, reconstruction took place gradually and was completed in 1965. In 1990-91, architect Gerhard Schlotter carried out the restoration and rebuilding, transforming the church into an exhibition space for contemporary art. Schlotter also restored the prayer hall to its original colour scheme from before the destruction. Painter and art professor Hermann Sandkuhl created the decorative sgraffiti that adorned the exterior niches between the brick pilasters. Unfortunately, they were all destroyed in 1943. The tympanum decoration by Erich Waske, depicting the Sermon on the Mount, was also lost. The prayer hall is illuminated by a triple high window, the original of which was also destroyed in the bombings. In 1962, Sigmund Hahn designed a new stained glass window, and in the 1990s Achim Freyer added coloured windows to the sides of the main nave. This gives the interior an unusual character full of colour.

Kirche am Hohenzollernplatz
Cmcmcm1, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The original clinker brick baptismal font by Höger survived the war intact. The church also contains an abstract angel sculpture by Regina Roskoden, a printmaker by Max Pechstein and a painting of the crucifixion by Hermann Krauth. Thanks to the generous donations of parishioners, a new organ was purchased, built by E. Kemper & Sohn, which was installed after 1965. Since 1987, the church has also been the venue for contemporary art exhibitions, which take place twice a year. Art plays an important role in the life of the parish, which is reflected in the themes of the services. In 1991, organ builder Sauer modernised the Kemper organ, which is regularly used during services and concerts. Since November 2008, “NoonSong”, a 30-minute liturgy sung by the professional vocal ensemble Sirventes Berlin, has been held every Saturday at 12:00, attracting hundreds of listeners.


Also read: Architecture | Church architecture | Monument | Germany | Berlin | Brick

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