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Three hundred-year-old hospital gets facelift

The high-rise ward building located at the original site in the centre of Berlin has been completely refurbished and new facilities for surgery, intensive care and emergency medicine have been built simultaneously. One of the main challenges was to conduct this huge transformation while parts of the hospital were fully operational. The project has been a crucial component of the hospital’s master plan for “Campus Mitte”, where 300 years of medical progress will continue to develop in this historical area of the city.

Charité University Hospital exteriors

Facts about the project

  • Client

    Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin

  • Place

    Berlin, Germany

  • Year


  • Photographer

    Friedmann Steinhausen

  • Size

    80.828 sqm / Net floor area: 33.933 sqm

Charité University Hospital in Berlin, Germany
Charité University Hospital in Berlin, Germany

A five-floor cube

The new building was designed as a five-floor cube and it has been connected to the multi-storey ward building by way of a light steel-and-glass bridge. To save on costs, it was fitted with a composite thermal insulation system. An inner courtyard facilitates an influx of natural daylight. The operating theatres and Post Anesthesia Care Unit have skylights to ensure that these areas are also naturally lit.

The ward building itself was stripped back to its load-bearing core and the static structure redeveloped as a reinforced concrete steel construction in bulkhead design. For budgetary reasons, the design had to adhere broadly, to the existing ground plan as the original building was erected with no load-bearing reserves. Intervention in this structure was not possible without significant compensatory measures.

On the ground floor, the entrance hall was enlarged by removing ceiling panels. This also eliminated the previous sensation of being in a confined space. The forecourt in front of the ward building was redesigned and is once again a pleasant public space. The construction project was awarded with a functional specification to a general contractor who was required from the project planning stage to carry out further planning, construction and commissioning of both buildings. The general contractor was also required to reach an agreement on functional and medical procedures, with the building users.

Close collaboration

Thanks to the close collaboration between client, architect, developer and contractor, new ways of handling the challenges with the logistical and infrastructural demands were found. For example, the central operating theatre block of the Charité Mitte campus, located behind the ward building, had to remain operational during construction. Consequently, patients were moved along specially designed, hygienic routes across the building site inside the multi-storey ward building, even though the building itself was completely gutted and was without a facade. The key inner-city location called for considerable logistical efforts, to ensure that essential material deliveries to and removals from the site did not interfere with bus schedules and other public transport.

  • Charité University Hospital in Berlin, Germany
  • Charité University Hospital exteriors
  • A glass walkway on Charité Hospital in Berlin - Germany
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Energy-efficient facades

The facade had to be energy-efficient, quick to install, easy to clean and – most importantly, improve the experience of being confined, for the patients. One of the solutions was to make the parapet height of the walls from the floors to the windows in the hospital rooms just 45 cm. This gives the patients the chance to enjoy the view over Berlin’s city centre, from their beds. In addition, the low parapet height allows the wide windowsills to be used as seating. Another solution was an extra external, single-glazed composite sash on the upper floors, which significantly improved the heat and sound insulation capabilities.