History of the Haus der Berliner Festspiele

In 2001, the Berliner Festspiele found a congenial home in one of the most significant theatre buildings of post-war Germany.

The Haus der Berliner Festspiele is among the best known buildings by the Berlin architect Fritz Bornemann. Imbedded in a public park area and in close proximity to the University of the Arts on Bundesallee, today it is home to the festivals and programme series of Berliner Festspiele and an attractive venue for a wide range of performances by international guests.

Berliner Festspiele have been hosting their year-round programme at the house since 21 April 2001. Their own festivals set the pace for Berlin’s annual calendar of events. Each spring, MaerzMusik uses the spaces of the Festspielhaus both for concerts and for its discourse and further events. The festival Theatertreffen follows in May: ten productions, selected by a jury of theatre critics, and many other programme points take over the house for three weeks. In September, the city’s concert season is launched by Musikfest Berlin, which cooperates closely with the Foundation Berliner Philharmoniker and has its main venue at the Philharmonie Berlin. Jazzfest Berlin closes the annual series of festivals in November. They are interspersed by Berliner Festspiele’s four national contests of the Treffen junge SzeneTheatertreffen der JugendTanztreffen der JugendTreffen junge Musikszene and Treffen junger Autor*innenThrough the autumn and winter months, the programme series Performing Arts Season annually presents a panorama of international dance, theatre and performance productions on the stage of the Haus der Berliner Festspiele and the Gropius Bau.

Furthermore, the Haus der Berliner Festspiele is a venue for discussion events, symposia and conferences on relevant issues of social and cultural politics. Award ceremonies, for the European Film Awards and the Theatre Prize Berlin and others, also take place here. In February of every year, the Festspielhaus plays host to the Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale), bringing exceptional cinematic art and international guests to Schaperstraße. And each year, the festivals Tanz im August and internationales literaturfestival berlin (in September) are also welcome guests of the house.

Extensive refurbishments of the auditorium and all technical stage facilities between 2009 and 2011 have rendered the Festspielhaus one of the most modern theatres in Berlin and a popular venue for international touring. Artists like Jan Fabre, Robert Wilson, Sophie Rois, Chilly Gonzales and leading companies like Forced Entertainment, The Forsythe Company, Pina Bausch/Tanztheater , Sasha Waltz & Guests, Hofesh Shechter Company, Gauthier Dance Company, Nederlands Dans Theater and Shanghai Kunqu Opera have already been performing at Haus der Berliner Festspiele.

The construction of the current building of Berliner Festspiele as “Theater der Freien Volksbühne” on the site of the former Joachimsthalersches Gymnasium to the north of Gerhart-Hauptmann-Anlage coincided with the building of the Berlin Wall. It was opened on 1 May 1963, under the artistic directorship of Erwin Piscator. Piscator and his successors Kurt Hübner and Hans Neuenfels turned the venue on Schaperstraße into a major venue for political theatre in Berlin, with directors like Rudolf Noelte, Luc Bondy and Klaus Michael Grüber contributing important works. In 1992, three years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Theater der Freien Volksbühne was closed and the house was used as a venue for musicals from 1993 and 1997. In 1999, the former owners Verein Freie Volksbühne were forced to sell the building because public subsidies were cancelled. In December 2000, Berliner Festspiele moved into the theatre building, initially as tenants, re-opening the house on 21 April 2001. In 2014, the federal German government acquired the house, securing it as a venue for Berliner Festspiele and the reunified city.

Fritz Bornemann (1912–2007), the architect of the building on Berlin’s Schaperstraße, is considered one of the most outstanding architects of the post-war period, along with his colleagues Paul Baumgarten, Werner Düttmann and Egon Eiermann, who all connected their work with the International Style after 1945. Among his best-known buildings in Berlin are Deutsche Oper in Charlottenburg, the former Dahlem Museums and the American Memorial Library in Kreuzberg. Another great success was the spherical pavilion which he designed together with Karlheinz Stockhausen for the World Expo in Osaka of 1970, not least because of the concerts of Stockhausen’s works performed there during the expo and composed especially for the site.

With its generous glass façade, the Haus der Berliner Festspiele opens up to its urban environment, a visible example of the democratic architectural ideals in post-war modernity. Regarding the theatre architecture of those times, concepts like “democratic architecture” were associated with “free flooding spaces, transparent architectures and a non-hierarchical arrangement of the audience” (Nikolaus Bernau). The internal architecture upholds this democratic ideal: The events on stage can be seen and heard equally well from all seats.

Photos of the Haus der Berliner Festspiele

Exterior and interior views

The Building During the Reconstruction Period 2020

The Building During the Reconstruction Period 2021

Interactive Panorama Images of the Haus der Berliner Festspiele

In 2012, we had some interactive panorama images takes of our theatre. Have a look! You can navigate the images by holding down the left-hand mouse button or by using the arrow keys of your keyboard. In the upper left corner of the screen you can change the viewing mode.

© 2012 Manuel Dahmann www.kubische-panoramen.de