Unbuilt masterpiece:
Otto Bartning’s
Star Church

Otto Bartning (1883 – 1959)

Architecture model by Otto Bartning, wood and plaster, 42,5 x 80 x 79 cm
© Berlinische Galerie

Beige model made of plaster and wood. The roof of the dome-shaped church is arranged like fish scales, some reaching to the ground. Geometric window openings between the roof surfaces let in the air. There are several entrances with wide, shallow steps outside.

The Star Church designed by Otto Bartning (1883–1959) is an Expressionist masterpiece, and yet it was never built. On a floor plan forming a seven-pointed star, the structure, highly charged with symbolism, had its altar and pulpit at the centre. The domed cover is composed of segments tapering as they rise. The soaring, slender columns inside join at the top into pointed arches reminiscent of medieval Gothic. People can enter the church from all sides and follow the service on raked pews. The conventional hierarchy – with a priest at the front preaching down from the pulpit and the congregation at the back – has been dissolved.

Bartning designed his Star Church in 1922 as a standardised timber solution. Unlike other Expressionist architects, he did not create buildings for a fantasy world alone. Bartning was a pragmatist and keen for his plans to be implemented. After the Second World War he did, indeed, use a type design based on his Star Church to construct “emergency churches” – the “Notkirchen”.

Star Church
Design 1922, model around 1950
Wood, plaster
42,5 x 80 x 79 cm
Endowment from the Union der Evangelischen Kirche Berlin, 2000

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