KaDeWe Berlin by OMA

Kaufhaus des Westens

Kaufhaus des Westens (KaDeWe) belongs to a consolidated tradition of historical European urban department stores such as Galeries Lafayette in Paris, Selfridges in London and La Rinascente in Milan. Historically, these department stores have been some of the pillars of early modern retail, acting as incubators for sophisticated crafts, social exchange and experimentation in services.

Since its opening in 1907, the KaDeWe has always been at the forefront of product selection, while also setting new standards for customer services. Its unique size – the biggest department store in continental Europe – makes it akin to a city: a three-dimensional network of paths, squares, neighborhoods, activities and views unfolding through its large extensions, providing opportunities for commercial, social and cultural encounters.

OMA Partner Ellen van Loon: “The renovation of the KaDeWe aims to redefine the dynamics between retail space, its patrons, and the urban environment, in a time when e-commerce is reshaping our relation with in-person shopping. The project reinterprets the fundamental elements of a typology that has remained virtually unchanged for more than 100 years.” Our proposal for the transformation of KaDeWe is tactical.

Rather than treating the existing building as a singular mass, the project breaks it into four quadrants, each one with different architectural and commercial qualities, targeted at different audiences: classic, experimental, young, generic. The four department stores under one single roof fragment the original mass into smaller, easily accessible and navigable components – similar to distinct urban sectors embedded into a unifying city fabric.

Each quadrant addresses a different street entrance and is organized around its core void, which acts both as a central atrium and a primary vertical circulation space. Through a process closer to curating than designing, each void is developed specifically, resulting in four distinct spatial experiences and four efficient models of organization within a single department store.

Throughout the nine levels of the building, the voids transform in size and extension, avoiding repetition and making every floor unique: they disappear on the ground floor, morph through the commercial areas, and one of the voids reaches the new rooftop. A cross-shaped organizational system reinforces the presence of the quadrants on each commercial floor.

It regulates the use of the spaces, the general circulation, the transition between one quadrant and the other and the relationship between brands and curated spaces, while at the same time allowing the injection of unexpected programs. The building operates as infrastructure allowing for multiple conditions and uses. The original vaulted rooftop becomes a compact glass volume, extending organically from the profile of the existing building.

The journey through one of the voids culminates with a final escalator ramp that brings the visitors here for an expansive view of Berlin. The configuration of the new rooftop creates an open-air courtyard between the new architectural insert and the rest of the building. Irregular in shape, the courtyard provides a space for outdoor programs and simultaneously unveils the most exciting and yet most secret spaces of KaDeWe: its food laboratories. Source by OMA.

  • Location: Berlin, Germany
  • Architect: OMA
  • Partner: Ellen van Loon, Rem Koolhaas
  • Project Team: Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli, Alex de Jong, Natalie Konopelski. Giacomo Ardesio, Sandra Bsat, Laurence Bolhaar, Janna Bystrykh, Paul Cournet, Alessandro De Santis, Alice Gregoire, Luis Guzman Grossberger, Sacha Hickinbotham, Piotr Janus, Aleksandar Joksimovic, Francesca Lantieri, Barbara Materia, Romea Muryn, Miguel Taborda, Salome Nikuradze, Rita L. Álvarez-Tabío Togores, Felix Perasso, Mariano Sagasta, Iason Stathatos, Tom Xia, Weronika Zaborek
  • Management: SMV Bauprojektsteuerung Ingenieursgesellschaft mbH
  • Structural Engineer: IBK Ing.-Büro für Tragwerksplanung
  • Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing Engineers: IBT Ingenieurbüro Trache
  • Local Architects: Architekturbüro Udo Landgraf, Heine Architekten Partnerschaft mbB, AUKETT+HEESE GmbH
  • Lighting: Sekles Planungsbuero
  • Escalators: HUNDT CONSULT GmbH, Geyssel Fahrtreppen GmbH
  • Resin panels: Sabine Marcelis Studio
  • Program: Renovation 90.000 m² department store
  • Year: 2021
  • Photographs: Marco Cappelletti, Courtesy of OMA

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