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Getting to Know Jan Kleihues (Part I)

It looks so effortless, so natural, yet the Hotel Concorde Berlin’s stunning design is no accident. From outside, it resembles a magnificent sculpture, on the inside, the hotel is a hymn to understated luxury and savoir-vivre. The numerous awards and glowing praise from national and international media only confirm what most people feel intuitively when they see the building for the first time: namely that it possesses beauty, even if they cannot say why.

Model of Hotel Concorde Berlin and surrounding area in architect Jan Kleihues' office

Model of Hotel Concorde Berlin and surrounding area

The hotel was designed by renowned Berlin architect Jan Kleihues. This week I visited him at his office in Charlottenburg to find out more about the hotel, as well as his other projects, which include the new federal intelligence headquarters in Berlin.

Hotel Concorde Berlin

The Berlin branch of the Kleihues + Kleihues architect’s office is located on a relatively secluded stretch of the river Spree. If you are looking for a scenic riverside walk away from the crowds, then I recommend beginning here around the Helmholtzstraße and walking East in the direction of Alexanderplatz. You’ll even come across a piece of the Berlin wall, largely overlooked compared to the East Side Gallery, Checkpoint Charlie or Berlin Wall Memorial at Bernauerstraße.

A walk along the river Spree

A less famous piece of the Berlin wall near Bellevue

The office itself is a lovingly renovated former rubbish transfer station and it’s easy to imagine ideas for other beautiful buildings being formed here. Jan Kleihues works on the upper level above the main open-plan space, surrounded by artwork and intricate models of buildings he has designed. We sit drinking our coffee at the long table in his office and I ask him to tell me about the Hotel Concorde Berlin. What do I want to know? Everything.

Kleihues + Kleihues office Berlin

Kleihues + Kleihues office Berlin

“It was a unique opportunity,” he begins. “It’s unusual to be able to design both the inside and outside of a hotel of such magnitude because most large hotels belong to a chain, and, for reasons of corporate identity, the interior is identical, whether the hotel is in Dubai or Paris. The Concorde chain deliberately celebrates the unique character of its hotels, though there are certain qualities which unite them all. So the great thing about the Hotel Concorde Berlin is that the inside corresponds with the outside.”

Architect Jan Kleihues in his office

Architect Jan Kleihues in his office

To be continued next week…

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