And now for something completely different – a museum that looks forward to the future rather than back to the past. Called the ‘Futurium’ or ‘House of Futures’, it opened to the public on 5th September and poses the huge question: “How do we want to live in the future?”
You can always trust Berlin to come up with totally avant-garde ideas and this project has not been without its detractors. There has been some criticism of the building; it cost 60 million euros and is constructed of reinforced concrete, glass and steel which are not ecologically sustainable. But the design, resembling a huge geometric crystalline gem, is certainly eye-catching and the location – between the River Spree and the Hauptbahnhof (main railway station) and facing the new government district and the Reichstag – is spot on.
Great location by the Spree
I visited the Futurium a couple weeks after its opening. There were four us, from three different generations, and we all loved it. We arrived early on a Saturday morning and timed our entrance well, because by midday there were long queues waiting to get in. Word has spread that the Futurium is a great family outing and it helps that entry is free. There are two entrances to the building, each with sheltered forecourts under the angular cube construction and the paved area outside is patterned with polka dots and scattered with round benches and planters.
Arriving at the Futurium
A family experience
The Futurium’s interior is designed on three levels. ‘The Forum’ on the ground floor is conceived not only as the reception area, with an information desk and a fun museum shop, but also a place to meet and exchange ideas about the future, with a calendar of events advertising regular evening presentations and discussions. Its vast dimensions lend a futuristic feel to the space. A special feature is the ‘Wunschpeicher’ or ‘Database of Hopes’, a hands-on display that sets the scene for this museum’s concept – we can decide what kind of future we wish for.
Experimenting with the Database of Hopes
The ‘Restaurant im Futurium’ is conveniently located on ground level too, with views of the riverfront piazza. But by the time we had finished our visit, there wasn’t a seat free and we didn’t have a chance to sample the “culinary future snacks” served alongside “regional classics”. Run by the well-known entrepreneur and TV chef, Sarah Wiener, this restaurant is bound to be popular with Berliners.
Self-service and eco-friendly café
A broad central staircase leads up to the first floor, or you can take the large space-like lift clad in black glass. Here you will find ‘The Cloud’, an exciting exhibition area with futuristic lighting and all-glass picture windows offering panoramic views of the city and the River Spree. The entire interior of the Futurium is almost zero-energy rated and fully accessible.
Staircase to The Cloud
Panoramic view towards the Reichstag
The fantastic displays in ‘The Cloud’ are designed both to inform and to challenge. How will we live and work in ten or twenty years? How will we feed ourselves and what forms of energy will we use? How do we meet our needs without harming nature? These questions are always a matter of interaction between nature, humans and technology and the exhibition is divided into these three parts or ‘thought spaces’.
Using Nature to shape our future environment
Children’s play area in The Cloud
At the start of your tour of the exhibition area, you are invited to put on a RFID wristband and use it to collect data on any exhibits of interest. In a room above ‘The Cloud’ the wristbands can be handed in and the data is collated on to a card with a unique number. You are given the card and can then enter the code on the Futurium website for more information about the future-related topics which caught your interest. This is a pretty cool thing to do and really extends the value of your visit as it is impossible to take in all the information while you are there.
A robot explains how to use the wristband
My unique card
On the very top of the building is ‘The Skywalk’, a pathway around the Futurium’s solar-panelled roof with fabulous views of Berlin. Follow this link to see a short video of this 360° attraction. https://futurium.de/uploads/vrContent/skywalk/skywalk.html
Finally, we took the lift down to ‘The Cave’ in the basement of the Futurium – a hands-on laboratory and workshop area for trying out futuristic concepts. This is the place to experience new technologies like 3D printers and laser cutters. There is even a test kitchen to see if insects will be part of our future diet.
Inside the Lab
Fun with digital imaging
I am sure that the Futurium will become an enduring Berlin attraction. Its contents will be continually updated to keep up with technological developments and environmental and social issues, and as the global debate on climate change becomes more urgent, it can provide a significant forum for discussion. We have only one present, but so many possibilities for the future.
I left the Futurium with the strong sense that although our technological progress is accelerating at an amazing rate, we are not living in harmony with each other nor with nature. One exhibit, the ‘Throne of Sunset’, by artist and peace activist Gonçalo Mabunda from Mozambique, sums up the abuse of human power. It is made of decommissioned arms, such as cartridge cases, pistols and rifle grips.
The Throne of Sunset (1975)
The Futurium is open from 10am until 6pm six days a week; it is closed on Tuesdays. One-hour bookable tours in English take place on Saturdays at 3.30pm and cost 5 euros. For all further details go to https://futurium.de/en/