The Topography of Terror Documentation Center
– New Building and Design of the Historic Terrain

The international design competition conducted by the German federal government in April 2005 had the express aim of developing an overall concept for the terrain and a new documentation center that would do justice to the historic site’s national and international significance in the heart of the capital, while at the same time avoiding a glorification of this area as the “site of the perpetrators.” The competition objective thus encompassed both a concept for the design of the terrain with all its material traces and also a design for a neutral exhibition building with accompanying scholarly and educational functions.

In January 2006 the jury unanimously chose the entry submitted by architect Ursula Wilms (Heinle, Wischer and Partner, Berlin) and the landscape architect Professor Heinz W. Hallmann (Aachen). The project was funded by the German federal government and the state of Berlin and realized by the federal government. Construction officially began in November 2007. The Federal Office for Building and Regional Planning was responsible for the building project, acting on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Affairs.

The winning architectural design of the new documentation center also includes a design idea for the main exhibition inside the building, which, according to the terms of the competition, should allow for “manifold visual links” to the terrain of the “Topography of Terror.” The exhibit area was designed in close cooperation between the architecture offices of Heinle, Wischer and Partner and the office of Braun Engels Gestaltung (Ulm).

The new Topography of Terror Documentation Center and the newly designed terrain opened on May 6, 2010, presenting three exhibition areas to its visitors. The permanent exhibition “Topography of Terror: Gestapo, SS and Reich Security Main Office on Wilhelm- and Prinz-Albrecht-Straße” is located inside the building. On the outdoor grounds, the newly designed exhibition trench along the exposed cellar wall remnants on Niederkirchnerstraße (formerly Prinz-Albrecht-Straße) continues to serve as exhibition space from the spring to the fall. The exhibition “Berlin 1933–1945: Between Propaganda and Terror” is presented here. The entire grounds of the “Topography of Terror” are presented in a “site tour with 15 stations,” providing an overview of the site’s history. All three new permanent exhibitions
are presented in both German and English. The architect Ursula Wilms is responsible for the exhibition architecture and Gerhard Braun for the exhibition design and graphics of all the permanent exhibitions.