3.12.2015

New drinks in the old west: a premium bar at Bahnhof Zoo

In the "Old West of Berlin", precisely opposite of the Savoy Hotel, the Delphi and the Theater des Westens at Kantstrasse, the cocktail culture found yet another home in Bar Zentral – run by Sebastian Mathow and Torsten Bender, formerly serving at the famous Green Door Bar.

The bar is located in one of the arches of the S-Bahn-viaduct, which holds the train tracks going from Zoo Station to Western Germany. The Interior design was developed by Hidden Fortress.

On first sight the Bar Zentral seems to resemble the looks of a classic American Bar. A long counter runs parallel to the arch, from north to south through the entire room. On second and third sight it reveals differences and details which entertain the visitor with their play on differently met expectations. At the back bar for example, you will not find the ensemble of bottles which naturally seem to be presented there in every other bar. Here a front of sliding doors and movable panels with lasered patterns partly close the compartments of an irregularly shaped shelf wall.

The counter itself is also structured and designed quite consequently. A closer look reveals, that it is actually a huge table with no differences in heights between guests and barmen. They sit and work on the same level, which steers the views of the guests towards the preparation of the drinks, if they chose to watch. The process is visible on every step on the way. The only separation between the guest and the working area is being made visible through a material change between oak wood (guests) and granite (work area), those two being divided by a narrow brass profile. This profile holds a range of small items, shelfs and plates, which can serve as extension to the working area of the barmen as well as presentation areas for the drinks. Therefore, these can be slid along the bar and placed where needed. At the entrance area the bar is flanked by seating arrangements made from African water buffalo leather. The other end of the bar transforms into a cantilevered tabletop with space for 6-8 guests, with some of the guests even sitting ‚behind‘ the counter.

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The left side of the room is dominated by the volume which houses the wardrobe, storage and WC’s of the bar. The drywall-built area is covered in panels from oak veneer in the lower part and lacquered in night blue paint on the upper part, which makes the whole section look more like a piece of furniture than a room. The division between the materials is placed at a convenient height for leaning and placing your drink on top of the brass-surfaced shelf. The wall shows some flat recesses which serve as light niches and mark the areas for guests to group around them without being too fixated to do so.

All these light irritations, in the main room are subtile, end in a black and white crescendo in the anteroom to the WC’s.:  behind a thick felt curtain in the blue wall, the contours of the anteroom are de-constructed by a wall covering dazzle pattern. The geometry of the room is hidden behind the chaotic lines of the wall cover. Dazzle has been developed by the British artist Norman Wilkinson in order to camouflage the warships of the British fleet during the 1st world war, and it pre-defined the Op Art from the 20ies and the 60ies. For a guest visiting the restrooms, it can have the destroying effect of fresh air after drinking too much, or it can be as refreshing as an ice-cold plunge in a pool after sitting in a hot sauna – as a working camouflage for ships it has never been proven effective and the concept was abandoned when the sonar was invented in the 40ies, rendering camouflage paint for ships superfluous altogether…

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While the much recited ‚old west of Berlin‘ is very present on the north side of the street, the view to the south of the bar reveals the dominating glass facades of the ‚New Kanzler Eck‘ by Helmut Jahn architects. The impression of these neon-lit glass walls at night were another source of inspiration for the development of the WC interior. In the cabins themselves where the walls become entirely black, the guest will find a reminiscence to a classic end times futurism theme. Each cabin shows one wall being covered in monochrome mosaics, pixeled in pretty low density. If it can not be identified due to the lack of distance, sometimes watching it through the cellphone display reveals the motives. Thus these walls are in a way a low-tech take on the subject of augmented reality.

The walls of the bar room are temporarily covered in an installation by the Italian artist Flavio de Marco – some abstract echo of a tropical paradise in the heart of the city and as well here a game on the change of scenery: The visitor of the bar is present, and yet somewhere else. For the owners it was important to work with traditional materials such as granite, variations of wood, leather and brass. The arrangement of these ‚honest‘ materials has the chance to get old in a decent way due to showing the marks of its usage and such it grows into a timeless interior over the years.

In co-operation with Collignon Architekten (room development and structuring) and the carpenter Majo Ertel, who is responsible for the high quality of craftsmanship and overall impression of the furniture, the designers of HF created a bar which joggles expertly with the elements of tradition and modern times. Almost like William S. Burroughs constructed his stories, the assembly and disassembly of these elements tell us the history of bar culture in yet a new way.

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