Brutalism meets the Baroque: a trio of churches

Brutalist architectural elements to this Schoeneberg church - the fortress-like bulk of St Norbert's, Berlin

It's no coincidence that two mid-20th-century churches located almost side by side in Berlin's Schöneberg district look remarkably similar - both were designed by Hermann Fehling and Daniel Gogol; eminent, if not widely known, architects.

But what of the buildings themselves?

To some, they're bleakly austere - more post-apocalyptic than pious - whereas for others they're bold and brilliant examples of uncompromising post-war design.

Each was constructed to replace a church that was either damaged or completely destroyed in World War II.

St. Norbert’s (above and below) was originally built in 1916, and its 1958 redesign saw surviving elements of the former, Neo-Romanesque church enveloped within a Brutalist influenced extension.

One of Berlin's most eye-catching modern churches: St Norbert's Schoeneberg.
The startling, sculptural bell-tower of St Norbert's Catholic church, Berlin

With its looming, bludgeon-like bell-tower and sharply spiked roofing, it's a building that intentionally verges close to the grotesque; as disturbing and violent as the nightmarish events that necessitated its reconstruction.

Neighbouring Paul-Gerhardt-Kirche (below) was built between 1958 and 1962, and its appearance, even after half a century, remains similarly futuristic and startling.

The sculptural forms of Paul-Gerhardt-Kirche, a Berlin, Schöneberg church designed by architects Fehling and Gogol
Detail of Paul-Gerhardt-Kirche, Berlin
The sculptural concrete bell-tower of Paul-Gerhardt-Kirche church, Berlin

And in one of those bizarre juxtapositions that seem to abound in Berlin, Schöneberg village church, which dates from 1766 (or did - in fact it's a replica of the Baroque original that was also destroyed by bombing) forms yet another part of the ensemble.

Schöneberg Dorfkirche is located next to a post-war modernist classic, Paul-Gerhardt-Kirche, Berlin

Most would agree that this architectural trinity is unconventional, but that, of course, is partly the point.

Fehling and Gogol's creations are fascinating simply because they are so unsettling. They're buildings that acknowledge Berlin's difficult past and, like many of the city's post-war churches, seem to simultaneously question and affirm religious faith.

Love or loathe this extraordinary Berlin cityscape, there's no denying its impact.

See also:
A Brutalist classic in the ExRotaprint complex
A modernist church in the Hansaviertel
White cubes


Further facts

The Schöneberg 'village church' or Dorfkirche's adjoining graveyard is one of Berlin's loveliest; a small but picturesque oasis hidden behind some of Schöneberg's busiest streets.

Its grand, neoclassical tombs add yet another layer to the medley of ecclesiastical architectural styles that characterise this striking corner of Berlin.

St. Norbert Catholic church: Dominicusstraße 17, 10823 Berlin 
Paul-Gerhardt-Kirche: Hauptstraße 47–48 10827 Berlin
Dorfkirche Schöneberg: Hauptstraße 47–48 10827 Berlin

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