The concept of a sustainable shopping mall makes its way to Charlottenburg’s center, uniting history and modernity and fusing urbanism with social networking
The Bikini Berlin, turning six years in 2020, is a mall complex next to the Berlin Zoo in Berlin’s West Charlottenburg. It combines the concept of a shopping mall with sustainability and social networking. «It is an urban oasis in the heart of the city, an urban hub and social universe», says Antje Leinemann, Managing Director of Bikini Berlin.
Built by the architects Paul Schwebes and Hans Schoszberger from 1955 and 1957, the building fuses history with future visions, having its name from the 1950s during which local Berliners christened the building Bikinihaus.
Since the eighteenth century, West Berlin has been popular amongst city locals and tourists, winning visitors over by its architecture and entertainment scene. In the 20th century, the West was known for being the home to Germany’s premier cinemas, such as the Capitol Film Theatre or the UFA Palast.
During World War II, parts of the city were destroyed, leaving vestiges around the Breitscheidplatz in Charlottenburg. When the architects Paul Schwebes and Hans Schoszberger — the two men represent talents of the post-war period in West Berlin — commissioned to build a center for the production of ladies’ outerwear, the building commenced evolving into the renowned location Zentrum am Zoo and today’s Bikini Berlin.
The Bikini Berlin is considered an architectural witness to Western Berlin’s post-war history, featuring attributes of the 1950s post-war modernism aesthetic — a period characterized by the forward-looking mentality of people, believing in new beginnings after the years of war.
When Schwebes and Schoszberger commenced the refurbishing process, they utilized materials available to them. Windows got framed with golden aluminum selvages, the façade and walls exposed concrete, incorporating glass fronts, and making use of space by breaking facades up by projections and recesses. Belgian architect firm SAQ, later on, created the masterplan for the renewal of Bikini Berlin.
«The idea behind the design is a combination of shopping, working and relaxing, complete with a cinema and hotel in an urban setting», explains Leinemann.
Munich architecture firm Hild und K, which specialized in construction work on pre-existing buildings and addressed the practical issues of SAQ’s design, was commissioned with its implementation and detailed planning. These days, the post-war modernist architecture is resplendent with a functional urbanity.
The inside of the mall differentiates from regular shopping centers, seeing itself as a compilation of curated and coordinated boutiques and gastro offers. The concept shopping mall is home to the modular pop-up boxes, which can be rented temporarily, constructed from raw wood run through the 200sqm hall of the Bikini Berlin.
The shopping mall Bikini Berlin is the home to an ever-changing clientele and selection of brands. The pop-up box system thereby allows brands to temporarily rent a space to sell their products to Bikini’s audience, offering change, innovation, and experimentation to the customer ship. The pop-up concept allows brands to launch products and offering aspiring designers the chance to present their creations to the public.
A team curates the labels after the guideline of economic responsibility and social commitment. «We have a dedicated team that takes care of selecting tenants. We are interested in strong brands, functioning products, and the reasons behind them. The brands also have to suit our urban audience».
Current tenants the pop-up boxes are Le Specs, Market Lifestore, Skin Made, or Home of Hemp. As result of the cooperation with the Fashion Council Germany, Bikini offers up-and-coming designers the opportunity to debut their collections.
«It is important to me that Bikini Berlin promotes new talents. That’s why we’re also getting involved in Digitaltag 2020 (Digital Day 2020), where founders present their start-ups. The winner will have the chance to move into one of our popular pop-up boxes for two months».
Not only are the concept stores such as LNFA — selling vintage fashion —, IND Berlin or Labo Art — offering long-lasting designs with high-quality materials- committed to sustainability and consciousness.
Another of our sustainability credentials is a project by start-up Green City Solutions: in front of Bikini Berlin, three innovative CityTrees have been installed that filter up to 80 percent of fine dust and pollutants from the air.
«In large cities, we need to enable better living conditions, and the CityTrees are a step in the right direction».
Bikini Berlin is LEED certified and has won the FIABCI Award in Gold (national) and Silver (international). The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design classification program is regarded as one of the world’s most important quality classifications in architecture.
With LEED, Bikini Berlin is setting new benchmarks in the ecologically efficient building in Germany. In 2015, Bikini Berlin won the Oscar of the real estate world: the FIABCI Prix d’Excellence Germany (in the Commercial category) in Gold, and, in an international context, the World Silver Award in the ‘Heritage’ category at the 2016 FIABCI World Prix d’Excellence Awards.
Bikini Berlin understands its customer ship, analyzing trends and topics of current ecological and political importance and reacting to the vogue climate of Western Berlin and the conscious minds of generations.
The Covid-19 crisis reveals an awareness of global dependencies and the fragility of local companies. As a reaction to this, consumers are looking for local shopping and food experiences and showing solidarity by joining the #SupportYourLocal appeal. Within this context, Bikini Berlin — as a biotope for independent, unique brands — has become a beacon for the unique shopping experience in the City West.
«We never lose sight of our vision: sustainability is a principle that is implemented both in terms of the building itself and the tenants who set up shop here. We counteract fast fashion with our store concepts. Change is not a program, but a principle and sustainability is no longer dictated as a trend by companies, but is something that our customers are actively demanding».
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