Risen literally from the dust of a divided Berlin, the Chapel of Reconciliation stands as one of the most compelling examples of contemporary rammed-earth architecture I've seen in a long time. Located on a site that had once been a deadly no-man's-land, the Chapel is Berlin's first public building, and sole church, constructed of load-bearing earth. As the 25th anniversary of the Berlin Wall's demolition approaches, let's take a look at this symbolic building and how it came to be.
The minimalist oval chapel, designed by Berlin architects Rudolf Reitermann and Peter Sassenroth, was completed in 2000 and consists of a monumental rammed-earth core structure flanked with a translucent facade of wooden louvers.
While the warm aesthetics of the building and its use of sustainable natural methods should be enough to please any fan of modern green architecture, what’s perhaps more moving is how these aspects have been used to serve a symbolic and spiritual purpose for its parishioners. Not only is the Chapel sited on the foundation of its pre-war predecessor, but also within its thick clay walls are embedded the remains of the former Church of Reconciliation which was demolished by the GDR in 1985 (citing “security measures” due to its location between Soviet watchtowers).
In comparison to the gleaming glass and commercial neon that characterizes the majority of Berlin’s in-fill construction since reunification, its uplifting to see a structure like the Reconciliation Chapel paying such quiet homage to its sober history while also presenting a fresh (green) face forward to the future.