For ten days in October 2021, the brutalist concrete structure known as the International Congress Centre Berlin was open to the public as a unique experience of film, performance and art. We visited the ICC Berlin on the first few days of The Sun Machine is Coming Down, a celebration of the 70th anniversary of Berliner Festspiele.
Since we are big fans of brutalist architecture, visiting the International Congress Centre Berlin was always in our sight. This gorgeous landmark of German architecture is massive beyond comparison, making it one of the largest congress venues in the world.
It looks like a weird-looking sci-fi spaceship from afar, designed by Ralf Schüler and Ursulina Schüler-Witte. They are also responsible for the excellent Bierpinsel in Steglitz. The ICC Berlin dates from the 1970s. It was considered a piece of innovative architecture and a window into the future.
The ICC Berlin was a tipping point for the city since it turned the German capital into one of the most important congress cities in the world. Millions of people flocked to the Messe Berlin fairgrounds for decades, but this massive building lays dormant nowadays. This colossal venue has been closed since 2014, untouched due to problems with asbestos.
For its 70th anniversary, the Berliner Festspiele decided to throw a party to show the city how fantastic this architectural icon really is. For that, the company’s director Thomas Oberender and a team of curators brought the movement back into the ICC halls. Sounds, lights, plants and people were inside the building again. Just for 10 days this time but, maybe, they will come back for more soon…
Named The Sun Machine is Coming Down after a 1969 song from David Bowie, Memory of a Free Festival, this exhibition wanted to present the freedom of festivals, which is an exciting topic to raise in this pandemic we live in now. The 1970s dream of the ICC became something new in this exhibition.
Inside The Sun Machine is Coming Down
Inside the exhibition, overlapping journeys invited you to explore the building and the artworks displayed. For three and a half hours, you were invited to take a trip through the structure and the art program.
Once you enter the ICC, the lower foyer space lightens up with colourful neon lights. They served as guidance for the congress that used to happen there, designed in the 1970s by light artist Frank Ohering; it was reactivated for The Sun Machine is Coming Down. Another element that belongs to the building is at the core of the ICC, and it could be named the brain without any problem. But its function is another one since it’s just a meeting point at the centre of the building.There were screenings of the Julia Stoschek Collection in the largest room, presenting films created between 1978 and 2018, questioning social structures and the body’s position in them. In another room, you could watch Berliner Festspiele’s 70-year history as it was put together and curated by Thilo Fischer.
One of the most exciting pieces we saw there could be a dialogue between man and some kind of artificial intelligence. Raed Yassin and Monira Al Qadiri created three floating kinetic busts that shared stories of dreams and bizarre experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic called Suspended Delirium.
The Sun Machine is Coming Down lasted for ten days in October 2021. It was an exciting way to encourage visitors to explore a piece of the city closed to the public for years. For us, the most fascinating thing about this exhibition was how the ICC architecture shaped the artwork being presented and how beautiful this building really is.
We hope this space is used more often in the future since it seems like it’s used more as background for movies than anything else. It’s a pity that a gorgeous and massive complex like this is closed to the public.
The Sun Machine is Coming Down to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Berliner Festspiele at the ICC Berlin
From 7–17 of October the Berliner Festspiele will bring the long-disused International Congress Centre Berlin back to life with performances, circus arts, music, films, and installations.
If you like what you read here, you should join our Discord channel; there, you will find a place for open discussions about all the themes we talk about here, and it is a free space for you to share your questions, comments and suggestions.
If you are not a fan of the platform, you also can join us on our Facebook group or our Twitter and Instagram. We usually post all the lovely images we see and do there, together with curating the best links of all World Wide Web. No joke!