Awakening the Berlin Cultural Icon: 48H ICC Berlin on Open Monument Day 2023
Summary of the blog post
Berlin, a city steeped in history, culture, and dynamic lifestyle, is home to a remarkable architectural gem - the International Congress Center Berlin, known as ICC Berlin. This impressive building, which first opened its doors in 1979, quickly became a symbol of West Berlin. However, after years of glory and activity, ICC vanished from public view, falling into disrepair in 2014, approximately 35 years after its inauguration due to substantial renovation requirements and economic challenges.
The History of ICC Berlin as a Cultural and Future Symbol
In 1970s, ICC found its place in the western part of the city and swiftly became one of Europe's largest congress centers. With construction costs reaching approximately one billion German marks, equivalent to about 500 million euros today, it stands as the most expensive new construction project in West Berlin's history. Its iconic silver, spaceship-like structure measuring an impressive 320 meters in length, 80 meters in width, and 40 meters in height gained worldwide recognition. Celebrated on a global scale, boasting 80 halls and rooms with the capacity to accommodate up to 20,000 conference participants and event attendees.
ICC Berlin transcended being just a venue for conferences and congresses; it was a host to a diverse range of events. Theodor Przybilla, ICC Berlin's inaugural and final sound engineer, perceived the building as something genuinely unique and extraordinary, unrivaled on a global scale. Innovative architectural elements that facilitated room-in-room concepts, alongside pioneering technology of that era, made ICC a symbol of modern West Berlin. Przybilla fondly remembered a multitude of events that took place at ICC, spanning from cultural events to technical congresses and medical conferences.
Opening of the ICC Berlin, 1979 three trade fair employees in the entrance area
One of the unforgettable events was a tennis match featuring the legendary German tennis icon Boris Becker, which captivated the audience in Hall 1.
A particularly quirky event occurred during the Christmas season in 1981. In an amusing twist of fate, two very distinct events took place simultaneously during a single weekend. In Hall 2, flashily dressed Orange Connection congregated for the grand Sannyas Festival, celebrating sexual liberation and spiritual redemption. Meanwhile, in Hall 1, the Vienna Boys' Choir performed, singing hymns to the Holy Mary. The challenge lay in keeping these two groups separate and ensuring their events did not overlap. This remarkable diversity and the associated logistical challenges made ICC Berlin a place of exceptional character.
Horst Stein guest conductor at the opening of the ICC Berlin, 1979
Diverse Usage in Film and Television
Over the years, ICC Berlin also played a vital role in the film and television industry. Numerous films and series, including "John Wick," "Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo," "Foundation," "Berlin Station," and "Captain America: Civil War," utilized the impressive architecture and versatile spaces of ICC as a cinematic backdrop. These film productions not only underscored ICC's uniqueness as a cultural and creative hub but also added to its allure.
Testimonials from Witnesses of Time
Over the course of three days, more than 30,000 people flocked to the imposing architecture. Among them were many first-time visitors aged 30 to 49, who had never before set foot in ICC. Additionally, there were experienced "ICC seniors," who had previously worked here, attended conferences, or even participated in the original opening ceremony. Visitors described their experiences as reminiscent of futuristic science fiction films from the 1960s and 1970s, akin to "2001: A Space Odyssey" - a historical space with a touch of science fiction magic.
Mrs. Holzheimer at the opening of the ICC Berlin, 1979
One of the most impeling moments came from Mrs. Holzheimer, whose husband had worked as a construction laborer during ICC's construction, leading them to attend the opening ceremony. This emotional recollection reaffirmed ICC's significance as a place of historical importance.
Frank Öhring, the designer of the information and light sculpture system, shared his inspiring concept for the navigation system during a discussion with witnesses at ICC Berlin. "When I began developing it, our initial aim was to provide guidance through the navigation system," he explained. "We perceived the building as a human body, equipped with a technical body that comes to life through the presence of people. The blue and red navigation system is evocative of the human circulatory system that extends throughout the entire body. We further simplified it into a binary system, where visitors must make gradual decisions." This distinctive fusion of art and architecture played a crucial role in sustaining ICC's fascination.
Future Plans for ICC Berlin - No Casino or Brothel
During the 48H ICC event, numerous ideas for ICC's future use were gathered from enthusiastic citizens. These ideas ranged from transforming ICC into a university campus to evolving it into a vibrant art center or a trendy techno club. The variety of proposals highlights ICC's potential as a hub for culture, education, and diverse events catering to all age groups.
Given its artistic, historical, and urban significance, ICC Berlin has rightfully earned the status of a protected monument. Cultural Senator Dr. Klaus Lederer emphasized that "ICC is an indispensable Berlin landmark and a pivotal city icon." Economic Senator Ramona Pop underscored the necessity of renovating and revitalizing ICC as a congress and cultural center. Simultaneously, it was made clear that due to heritage protection, investors must accept specific limitations regarding potential alterations. It was determined that, under a two-stage selection process, ICC should not be transformed into a shopping mall, a casino, or a brothel.
Measures and the Road Ahead
The 48H ICC event, as part of Open Monument Day, clearly demonstrated that people have a deep emotional connection to this building and desire a vibrant future for ICC.
We look forward to the upcoming chapters in the history of ICC Berlin and the unique opportunities this cultural gem offers to the city and its residents. Some of the ideas contributed by visitors have already been brought to life by Midjourney, and you can explore them here.
However, the future of ICC ultimately rests in the hands of those who appreciate and love it. What vision do you hold for the future of ICC? What dreams do you nurture for this unique structure?
Share your thoughts and ideas by contacting us at this email address email@example.com and help pave the way for ICC Berlin to enter a new era.
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