An Abandoned 70s Building in Berlin Became a Contemporary Art Venue During the “The Sun Machine Is Coming Down” Event

Berlin’s International Congress Centre (ICC), which had been abandoned for the last seven years, was transformed into a stage and venue for performances, acrobatics and visual arts. It also hosted films, concerts, talks and other events during Berliner Festspiele’s “The Sun Machine is Coming Down” event. This 1970s futuristic building, which had been closed for seven years, provided the foundation for a multi-layered experience that demonstrated its potential for adaptive reuse and reactivation.

© Berliner Festspiele / Eike Walkenhorst

The “The Sun Machine is Coming Down” event was held between 7 and 17 Oct. It borrowed a line from David Bowie’s 1969 song, “Memory of a Free Festival”. It offered an assemblage of different art media and genres in a disused structure that has a significant cultural aspect. The event combines exciting art with site-specific installation while making full use of the unique building’s spatial framework. It is part of a tradition that aims to create new realms of experience.

The Berliner Festspiele hoped that this combination of poetry, transformation and ‘Sun Machine” would set an example for other artistic institutions in Berlin. This is both for the future as well as for this amazing building. Thomas Oberender, the Berliner Festspiele Director and initiator of the project.

© Berliner Festspiele / Eike Walkenhorst

The ICC was built in 1979 by Ursulina Schiller-Witte & Ralf Schuler. It is a rare example of futuristic, high-tech architecture. Its machine- and spacecraft aesthetic can be traced down to the smallest details. The project featured two large auditoriums, one with a central stage and a foyer, as well as many amenities. It was highly praised during its operational phase. In 2014, the building was closed. A plan was developed by Bureau N and Florian Heilmeyer to reactivate and convert the structure into an International Congress Center for Contemporary Culture. The idea was well-received by the public, but the fate of the building is still to be decided.

© Berliner Festspiele / Eike Walkenhorst
© Berliner Festspiele / Eike Walkenhorst
© Berliner Festspiele / Eike Walkenhorst
© Berliner Festspiele / Eike Walkenhorst