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Freedom and Unity Memorial “Four Doors of Berlin”

Freedom and Unity Memorial: Etching, by Ian RitchieWe were one of 33 designers invited to prepare designs for a memorial to the fall of the Berlin Wall  in October 1989.
It was pivotal moment and symbolised both freedom and reunification for the people of a country and a city. A period of history healed in a peaceful moment of coming together and opening up.

Our proposal “The Four Doors” [Die vier Türen] embraces the idea of perpetual becoming. It also presents a powerful aesthetic concept and object of unity and liberation. These characteristics are easily recognised in an unwritten way through the image of the door. Throughout history the door has epitomised within and without, private and public, the known and unknown, incarceration and freedom. The rotation of the door symbolises the act of closing and opening space, of becoming, of changing, and its position can evoke a state of mind and an emotional response. In art, the surface and composition of the door has been significant [e.g. Rodin’s Gates of Hell and Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise].
The plinth, scale and massiveness of the doors, which when shut form a double cube, and convey an idea of unity and solidity in an ever-changing and somewhat fragmented world.

Each of doors can open 270 degrees to create different spaces and surfaces, but when these doors close the space created allows memory, reason, imagination, sensation and emotion to be contained in a space invisible to the city. It is the moment of physical unity.  When the doors are partially or fully open, the stainless steel door frames remain as the static and symbolic form of this unity, always connecting the changing space as the doors move.

The new landscape of the plinth presents a pattern of two intersecting circles that exist within and without the square contained by the doors. The circle, symbol of unity, traced by the doors’ movements, is expressed in the landscape.
The rotating silver lines edge the stone discs which rotate very slowly, imperceptibly with the each door. These circular patterns convey the idea of ‘becoming’ and ‘the coming together’.

The temporal quality – the time taken for the doors to open and close is important. Their imperceptible movement accumulates time.

The shifting physical scale of perception is important in the memorial.
The first scale is that of the city and the context of the site, The second scale is that of the enclosed empty space created when the doors are closed, while the third scale is the material, texture and colour of the surface of the frames, doors and the plinth. The main frames and door edges are shot-peened stainless steel.  Internally, the doors have a deep golden black, yet soft slightly pillowed surfaces made of woven phosphor bronze wire. Externally, the door surface is of woven silver stainless steel, reflecting urban light.  The fourth scale is conveyed by the hinges and their individual cast and machined stainless steel metal supports cantilevering a little from the individual door frames. They have a scale in keeping with that of the door yet do not carry the door’s weight but retain the door vertically and provide wind resistance back to the door frame. Each door’s weight is carried by the granite ground. The drive motor is contained within the door and both door and granite disc rotate together. The four hinges ‘divide’ the door surface into five horizontal panels. The scale of the door is reduced, but remains urban in scale from a distance. The door is now approaching fifth scale – human. From the outside the individual vertical woven panels are just over 5 metres high and about 1 metre wide.  12 panels create the door width.  The tactile quality of the surface will reduce the scale, as do the faint internal texts.

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Freedom and Unity Memorial "Four Doors of Berlin"

Berlin, Germany

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