In the dark, the MDC in Berlin-Mitte literally shines: Large, vertically patterned glass panes provide generous views into the laboratories of the MDC's Berlin Institute for Medical Systems Biology (BIMSB). Transparency is also a central feature of the new building on Hannoversche Strasse, in the vicinity of Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin. In most research buildings offices and laboratories are strictly separated. Here, they are not only right next to each other. From your desk, you can even look down on the lab bench – or see who's walking down the hall. Throughout the building, these areas are separated only by glass panes.
This visual translucency is one of the features praised by the Association of German Architects (Bund Deutscher Architekten, BDA) in the “BDA Prize Berlin”. A total of 112 projects had entered the competition and had been judged based on seven criteria: harmony, atmosphere, symbolism, composition, social commitment, technical, ecological and social innovations, and perfection of detail. At a ceremony on May 3, 2022, at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, four first prizes, one special prize and four awards were presented. Four additional projects, including the MDC in Mitte / BIMSB, received an honorable mention.
Room for creativity
“The scientists of the BIMSB, founded in 2008, are considered the avant-garde of systems biology research. [...] A highly flexible new building was designed specifically for this cluster of researchers, combining molecular biology laboratory workstations with computer-intensive bioinformatics and theoretical workstations,” reads the statement accompanying the award.
The path towards such an open and flexible research building involved an intensive exchange of ideas between Professor Nikolaus Rajewsky, the director of the BIMSB, the research group leaders* and the architects from Staab Architekten from the very beginning. “This creative process is reflected inside and out in the individuality and beauty of the building. The result is a vibrant space for young scientists to work and meet. The building promotes creativity,” says Dr. Jutta Steinkötter, who was closely involved in the planning process and represented the MDC at the award ceremony.
Ultimately, the place is not only open in the spatial sense: There are regular concerts and exhibitions on the premises. Among others, the "Breaking Boundaries" series by Nikolaus Rajewsky makes creative gatherings of art, culture and science a reality.
Text: Wiebke Peters