Sony Music Headquarter Europe

Berlin, Germany
studio karhard

No chance for coincidence...

In this new building in Berlin, music artists, sound engineers and representatives of the music industry meet - in meticulously planned yet very sensual interiors. Mosaic tiles from Agrob Buchtal's Loop series give not only the restrooms but also the office and event areas an unmistakable appearance.


Urban repair in the music scene district
With the move into the new German and European headquarters on Bülowstraße in Berlin-Schöneberg, Sony Music Entertainment and Sony Music Publishing now present themselves in an environment that played a decisive role in shaping the music scene there in the 1970s and 80s. The former apartment of David Bowie and Iggy Pop, for example, is just a stone's throw away, as is the legendary Meistersaal, which served as a recording studio for these two music icons and later also for Depeche Mode, Nick Cave and U2. At the same time, the new building on the corner of Steinmetzstrasse, which covers 8,000 m² of floor space, eliminates a wound in urban development: the architects from Gewers Pudewill designed a seven-story building that closes the post-war gap, which until recently was only partially built on, and now sets a convincing urban accent. In addition to the stepped transitions of the structure to the neighboring buildings, the rounded facades on all corners of the upper floors are particularly characteristic. They lend the all-white exterior of the headquarters a self-confident, unagitated dynamism that is continued and reinforced in the interiors designed by studio karhard.

Creative playful nonchalance
The references both to the curved façade and to a place that was already in full bloom in the days of bell-bottoms and gaudy colors are already visible from the sidewalk. For example, round meeting islands surrounded by translucent profiled glass and flowing curtains can be seen through the floor-to-ceiling windows, where round ceiling lights and tables and bright or dark orange chairs set the tone. "Sony is an entertainment company, not a cool tech company. For that reason alone, there are a lot of playful, colorful elements here," says Thomas Karsten, architect and co-founder of studio karhard, which he runs together with his wife Alexandra Erhard. The two were responsible, among other things, for the conversion of a former combined heat and power plant into the techno temple Berghain, and from the very beginning they established connections to the music and design history of the neighborhood: "Stylistically, the spaces are characterized by the 'glamour punk' of the 1980s with lots of steel, glass and glitter." And indeed, whether you're moving around the offices, the conference areas, the recording studio, or the state-of-the-art music and function rooms, there's an aura of creative, glamorous casualness everywhere.

Time jump in the sign of the circle
Listen, read, and be amazed: The sanitary areas, which are also completely dominated by the circle, radiate a special atmosphere. In addition to round washbasins, mirrors and coat hooks, the walls are characterized by mosaic tiles from Agrob Buchtal's Loop series. Depending on the component, they appear in the shades ivory or anthracite, each combined with light or dark gray joints and white or anthracite sanitary objects. A special color accent is provided by the lemon yellow round mosaic in the toilets on the first floor, where it contrasts sharply with the black control room and white recording room in the area of the recording studio often frequented by music artists. "Mosaic tiles were chosen partly because of the reference to the 1970s, when this type of ceramic was very popular," Karsten says. "On the other hand, larger tile sizes would have been totally inappropriate given the many rounded walls and the double-curved edges of the numerous plant troughs." Populated with large houseplants, the latter divide the office areas, evoking memories of David Bowie's flamboyant stage outfits.

Sensual ceramic stainless steel sculpture
The "White Room" on the 5th floor is also extravagant. Here, a representative area was created that offers a sound-decoupled music room for excessive music listening, plenty of space for small events with invited guests, and a large roof terrace. The psychedelic pattern of the carpet and the open installations on the ceiling, staged not without a certain poetry of (apparent) chaos, attract attention. Nevertheless, the focal point is undoubtedly a four-meter-long bar counter made of stainless steel. This object with integrated stainless steel washbasin rests on two round pillars, which are also clad with ceramic round mosaic from the Loop series by Agrob Buchtal.

The sculptural power of this custom-made component is based on tense asymmetry: one of the two pillars seems to pierce the counter upwards to form another plant trough, this time high up. But the materials are also essential: stainless steel and ceramics are often found together in large kitchens and restrooms, not least for reasons of hygiene. Here in the "White Room," however, they appear less functional (although they are, of course) and more refreshingly unconventional. Ultimately, the ceramic-clad planters and counter appear as works of art that involuntarily transport staff and guests back in time to the 1970s and 80s. At the same time, they exemplify the meticulousness and sensuality with which studio karhard planned this project: It doesn't matter where in the building you are - you'll look in vain for solutions that just "happened" by chance and don't correspond to the idea of the glamour punk concept.

Photographer: Stefan Lucks