MVRDV has completed the transformation of a historic studio building in Atelier Gardens, a masterplan to transform the Berliner Union Film Ateliers (BUFA) campus. Known as TON 1, the newly completed building is a highly flexible event space housed in a listed film studio that is almost 100 years old. A sensitive intervention preserves the character of the historic building: filigree curtain rails hold curtains of various colours that divide the space and create an open atmosphere allowing new uses, from events and workshops to debates and meetings.
With the transformation of its campus, BUFA is expanding its user base beyond filmmakers to encompass all forms of ‘pioneers of change, including organisations and individuals with a focus on activism and social justice. In line with Atelier Gardens’ growing community, the transformation of the campus is considered as a collection of pilot projects – an ongoing process in which the participation and feedback of the users would help to clarify the direction of the campus as a whole.
The five filming studios and assortment of ancillary facilities form a dense campus: large, charismatic brick buildings define narrow alleys and open plazas. MVRDV’s design preserves and enhances this spatial diversity, enlivening the buildings themselves while maximising the potential of the spaces in between. Large areas of paving are removed, allowing the campus to become significantly greener, with roof gardens and green spaces to increase biodiversity and expand the green space of Tempelhof with an ecologically oriented landscape.
The masterplan for the 23,800-square-metre campus takes an incremental approach to refresh the film studios, considering each building transformation as a response to the previous ones. The completion of TON 1 is the latest milestone in this process.
At almost 100 years old, TON 1 is somewhat outdated for modern film production, being used most in recent years for television productions and commercials. It is also a listed building, which necessitated a design that creates a flexible space for a variety of uses without permanently altering the existing features of the building in any significant way. The design needed to lengthen the lifespan of the building to ensure a sustainable future for the campus while also respecting its history.
MVRDV’s design achieves this through a single stand-out feature: an intricate overhead curtain rail that – unlike in most film studios where curtain rails are hidden – becomes a focal point of the space. The rail supports a variety of curtains in a range of bright colours, from raspberry to honey yellow, that can be used to divide the space, each with different functions (such as acoustic curtains and translucent curtains). In this way, the new additions contrast the original building: flexible instead of fixed, and colourful instead of black. A lighting system integrated into the track expands the possible uses of the space, creating a variety of moods and emphasising the diverse spatial configurations. Brick walls are kept visible, while above the curtain rail, a skylight is added in the roof of the building to make the space more suitable for different uses. Other features of the building are updated, with new interior surfaces and a new more efficient ventilation system.
“In the way it combines the long film-making heritage of BUFA with an energetic new approach, Atelier Gardens will be a model for how to adapt and remain relevant in our ever-changing society. Our goal with the architecture was to reflect this spirit – at once respecting the site’s history and sustainably preserving the heritage structures, while also bringing an exciting transformation,” says MVRDV founding partner Jacob van Rijs. "The completion of TON 1 is a first important step in this development".
The next milestone will be the redevelopment of House 1, which is located at the entrance to the campus. As was the case with TON 1, House 1 is also maintained, this time with the goal of having maximum impact through minimal intervention. The interior of the building will be extensively renovated, improving natural ventilation, and a garden and roof gazebo will be added, accessible from both the building itself and a zig-zagging staircase that leads directly to the rooftop. Completion of House 1 is scheduled for summer 2023.
London property investor and developer Fabrix commissioned MVRDV to develop the masterplan for Atelier Gardens and design the buildings within it. The design of TON 1 was developed in collaboration with local co-architects Hirschmüller Schindele Architekten, while London-based designers Harris Bugg Studio developed the masterplan’s landscape design.