Architecture Wednesdays, and other events

2012.10.16

Sorry for the couple of reschedulings recently, meetups currently as follows:

Wednesday 24th Oct – architecture book club – Jane Jacobs’ “Death & Life of Great American Cities” (see earlier post, below).

Wednesday 31st Oct – architecture film at Hudson’s, hopefully ‘HouseLife‘ – the film about the house in Bordeaux designed by Koolhaas / OMA – RESCHEDULED  - SEE LATER BLOG POST

Both events at 7.30pm at Hudson’s Cafe, Schönleinstr 1.

Also, I haven’t been yet, but don’t want to miss the TU’s exhibition about the Berlin IBA of the 1987, marking its 25th anniversary - RE-VISION-IBA ’87 _ Themen für die Stadt als Wohnort

Categories : Event   IBA 87

IBA Tour, 11th December 2011 (and Megastructures on the 12th)

2011.12.02

SOLD OUT, sorry!

Will run another one early in 2012 – email me if interested and will put you on the mailing list.

On Sunday, 11th December I’ll be running another tour of some of Berlin’s IBA buildings from the 1980s, beginning with a sample of ‘Neubau’ structures, then heading to the other end of Kreuzberg (SO36) to see some ‘Altbau’ with (fingers crossed) access into some of the blocks near the canal, to give a real feel for how radical some of these designs really were.

We’ll meet at 11am in front of John Hedjuk’s tower, on Besselstrasse.  Cost 8€, let me know in advance, jimhudson40(at)googlemail.com

It should last around three hours and will be mainly outside – wrap up warm and wear sensible shoes!  The first part will be around the area where we begin, then we’ll take a bus east to the other end of Kreuzberg to look at some of the ‘Altbau’ buildings, including access to see inside one of the semi-communal housing blocks and up to the roof.

It’s therefore best if you can buy travel tickets beforehand, at least for a single journey within zone A.  Quite a big response to the tour so I want to avoid a long queue onto the bus!

Not planning to stop in cafes or bars en route, but we will end at a bar which does food, and plenty of other eating options around as we finish up in the ‘buzziest’ part of Kreuzberg.

Looking forward to meeting you all, fingers crossed for good weather!

Also, Büro Schwimmer is running another of his tours the following day, ‘Megastructures 2‘ at the ICC – a classic piece of 1970s megastructuriness.

2nd ‘mini’ IBA tour

2010.08.28

After the success of the dry run earlier this year, I thought I’d do a second tour of some of the blocks forming part of the IBA around Kochstrasse.

Saturday 18th September, 10.30 am.  Starting at the corner of Kochstrasse and Wilhelmstrasse, ending at the Berlinische Galerie, should last around 2 – 2.5 hours.  The buildings we’ll look at will include Aldo Rossi, OMA, Peter Eisenmann, John Hejduk, Herman Herzberger, Arato Isozaki and many many more (as they say).

Weather looks unclear at the time of writing, but best to be prepared in case of rain.

Unfortunately they’ll be a charge this time around – €10 per person, €7 concessions, by prebooking only. 

So please contact me if you’d like to come along: jimhudson40 (at) googlemail.com.

Categories : Event   IBA 87   Kreuzberg

Disappointment at Prager Platz (but enlightenment at the Technikmuseum).

2010.06.06

A lovely evening here in Kreuzberg, sat on the balcony watching the sun go down.  My partner (soon to be wife) is off on her hen night, so what to do?  A drug-fuelled night of depravity with a group of erotic dancers?  No, it’s Saturday night, I want to do something special.  So a spot of long overdue blogging.

I was on an errand the other day (back when it was rainy and cold here in Berlin, a period that lasts from roughly October until the end of May), and this errand took me through Prager Platz, another part of – you guessed it – the 1980s IBA.  Along with the development up at Tegeler Hafen,  it stands physically apart from the rest of the IBA programme.

It didn’t help that it was cold and raining of course, but there was something distinctly underwhelming about this particular piece of urban design.  Nothing wrong with the idea; the recreation of a 19th century square using contemporary architecture.  And I’ve long become accustomed, probably too much so, to some of the PoMo excesses of the aforementioned IBA.  But I found the Rob Krier block frankly a little scary – hard to put my finger on exactly why (perhaps Tragedy Hatherley can help here, whose way with words and seemingly colossal output always put my infrequent posts to shame).  Why though is there always something of ancient Rome about Krier’s buildings, often with nightmarish almost-but-not-quite-abstract sculpture.  Something a little too unrelaxed and self-consciously odd?

I tread carefully here, because there’s architecture that I’ve not initially loved, then have subsequently campaigned to save, but architecture the like of John Hejduk’s is absent here.

Part of the problem for me is that there was nothing good round the back.  So often with IBA buildings, particularly in Kreuzberg and Luisenstadt, further to the east, you get nothing very impressive on the street elevation, but much more excitement in the interior courtyards (the Höfe, to give them their correct plural-of-Hof name).  Secret gardens, cascading balconies, wavy elevations, overgrown ruins and the like.  None of that here, perhaps because this a richer and, pre-IBA, a more developed part of town.  We’re talking West-end, Wilmersdorf/Schöneberg, and actually the strength here is the understated and pleasantly sleepy1950s domestic architecture, which is beginning to exert a strange hold on me (more about this another time, except to say that I’ve started fantasizing about living in a well-to-do part of West Berlin of this period, rather than the parts that you’re meant to fantasize about).

So anyway, onto the buildings, architects and such things.  I include this kind of detail, in the probably errant belief that it lends my blog a little depth and class.  Or whatever.

The overall idea seems to have been jointly by Rob Krier and Gottfried Böhm, with Klaus Kammann acting as Berlin contact architect for each of the buildings.

Firstly, that scary Rob Krier block (you’ll remember him, brother of Leon, who is/was architectural advisor to Prince Charles -  both brothers big noises in the why-does-it-present-itself-so-like-Scientology New Urbanism movement).


In classic PoMo style, there are elements that at a glance appear to be structural, but then obviously aren’t.  A bit like a later James Stirling building, except not as good.  Like this bracket supporting the balcony, but actually just pretending to, ho, ho.


Next, the residential block by Gottfried Böhm, an architect with a long career with some good work. But not here, to my taste at least.  It’s quirky enough, but I was strangely taken with the idea that Richard Rogers could have done the same building in a High-tech stylee (if the British High Tech folk had been interested in such lowly things as housing back in the 1980s).  Still, I noticed recently that someone had tagged my blog on Delicious as ‘ugly Berlin architecture’ (I decided to be flattered) and this will add to their collection.

What to do with all those spare tiles? Oh, I know, let’s cover the whole building with them…

…and a building by Carlo Aymonino, who, unlike Rob Krier, actually is italian, although he hasn’t included any clay pantile roofs, rusticated balconies, false brackets etc.  It’s hiding behind a tree though, for some reason:

It seems that where the shopping centre now stands, there was a plan to build a municipal leisure pool, library and an adult education centre.  I didn’t venture into the shopping centre, but it didn’t look like any of these things would be located here.  Do correct me if I’m wrong.

Perhaps I’ll return to all of this at some future point in a different frame of mind, but for the time being, inspired by the aforementioned Mr Hatherley, I’m going to press on with a longer post than usual (which isn’t saying much) by switching subject to something I do like. Nothing to do with the IBA!  Plus, all photos guaranteed to depict a sunny day.

I was cycling about round the Tempodrome recently.  It’s a permanent, concrete version of a kind of big circus tent, which previously really did exist as an actual circus venue in various locations around Berlin, once hosting an event featuring both Westbam and Einstürzenden Neubauten, which must have been good.  The Neues Tempodrome is a faint echo of the original, being given more to Coke-sponsored major rock tours than anything more leftfield. It also has the Liquidrome beneath, but you can look all this up on Wikipedia if you want.  It was built, as many such big german things are, by GMP (von Gerkan, Marg & Partner).

The flower pots are very large, by the way.  I got my girlfriend to stand next to one for scale, but don’t like to feature her in the blog, so you’ll have to imagine her standing to the right of the closer one, being about the same height as it.

More interestingly, it is built on the site, and on the remains, of the Anhalter Bahnhof, one of the capital’s largest stations before the war, but which was demolished postwar after heavy bomb damage and lack of anywhere to need to trravel to from West Berlin.  If you live in Berlin you’ll be familiar with the bit that still stands:

But on the other side of the Tempodrome, there are remains of the station platforms and tracks, which rather reminded me of a recent post by the ever-reliably interesting Charles Holland at Fantastic Journal, telling of the self-consciously hip and not-so-hip reuse of abandoned urban industrial architecture.  The difference here being  that Berlin is virtually made of this sort of thing, with far too few inhabitants to pay attention to it all.  Not quite as self-consciously a piece of ‘Architecture’ as New York’s High Line, but the Anhalter Bahnhof tracks run into a series of derelict and semi-derelict spaces which previously formed one of the largest interchanges/good yards in Europe. Remains of the platforms can be seen, with some landscaping at the ‘neater’ Tempodrome end with beds of railway gravel marking out the route of the tracks.  The whole thing is being allowed to slowly turn into woodland, deliberately I assume.

I’m slightly baffled as to how the tracks are at the same level as the Tempodrome, far above the level of the front of the station; perhaps someone can explain…

I’ve come to believe that I’ll never be able to embed Google maps, but if you look here, you can see the Tempodrome, and the site of the Anhalter Bahnhof (the white circle in a rectangle, centre top) with the goods yards and tracks running through a large site to the south, still partly empty.  But a large part of the area, including the three vast ruined turntable sheds, have been incorporated into the Deutsches Technikmuseum.

As you pass by on the main road, the very prominent (and apparently very expensive) new building of the Museum looks impressive enough.  I guess any building with a Dakota bomber hanging off it would be impressive anyway, but I’ve recently realised that structurally the whole building is something rather fantastic.  Essentially, it’s a colossal pillar in the centre, from which the rest of the building (and the aeroplane) is suspended.  You might counter that this is a rather Grimshaw-esque approach; create a structural problem and then try to solve it.  Whatever.  But it does become more apparent if you explore round the back, where they’ve done this:

It appears to be a structural frame with the columns taken away, but you’re actually seeing the bottom end of the suspension rods, holding up the floors.

It’s by Ulrich Wolff and Helge Pitz, 1995-2001 by the way.  Apparently building costs were such that when originally finished, there was no money for anything to go in it.  But I say ‘apparently’ because architect bloke down the pub told me, and you can’t believe everything he says.

I also love that from the south, only the ‘head’ of the building is visible, appearing like some vast piece of abandoned german industrial machinery.  Built on top of a bunker.  Which I can’t believe wasn’t at least part of the intended effect.

Some other images included, as there’s all sorts of other recent and less recent structures nestling in the undergrowth.  The museum itself is also well worth a visit, if you’d like to see some of this from the other side of the fence.  Plus if you get a chance before the end of June, this looks very interesting.

IBA mini-tour, Saturday 29th May

2010.05.26

UPDATE: Have had a really positive response for this, and only a couple of places left (numbers limited as we’re trooping into people’s apartments). First come first served!

(Not very) advanced notice that this saturday, a few of our group will be meeting up to look at some of the IBA buildings on Kochstrasse, with some access to flats and possibly including John Hejduk’s ‘Kreuzberg Tower’ which is just a block away.  It’s not an ‘official’ tour, since I’m leading it – more a test run to see if it might be worth running ‘proper’ tours of parts of the IBA and other lesser-known Berlin architecture.

For those who don’t know (despite my obsessive blogging on the subject, see right hand column!) the Berlin IBA, an international building exhibition exhibition of the 1980s, produced a huge quantity and variation of buildings, mainly housing, in a swathe running from south Tiergarten to the far end of Kreuzberg. There’s way too much to cover in a day, or a month, but the area around Checkpoint Charlie is particularly interesting, with designs by OMA, Peter Eisenmann, MBM, Aldo Rossi, and on the block to the south, John Hejduk’s now fabled tower.

Meet at 11am on the corner of Kochstrasse and Wilhelmstrasse at 11am. Let me know if you fancy coming: jimhudson40 (at) googlemail.com.  Probably a couple of hours, then maybe a spot of lunch/drinks somewhere.

Our informal architecture group* has been on a few tours now, including the new building on Linienstrasse, the Dutch embassy and the Shellhaus.  I dismally failed to write about the Shellhaus visit, but my fellow archi-groupie has, over at Nicht Winken! In der Großstadt! In fact she’s posting far more than me, and I wouldn’t blame regular readers for migrating over there.  In my favour, I can claim that I was braver (well alright, taller) when leaning out over the staircase shaft. Although, as is often the case, I seem to have put my foot in it.

*the group is informal, not necessarily the architecture

Rem(oved)

2010.05.12

It’s the best title I could come up with, even though someone pointed out in a comment on an earlier post that the building I’m writing about here was designed not by Mr Koolhaas, but by his partner Elia Zengehlis, along with Matthias Sauerbruch and others, as OMA.

Anyway, last week, a new chum (who lives in the MBM-designed block behind it) showed me some ongoing alterations to the block for a new McDonalds.  Residents are apparently concernd that a terrace being constructed to the full width of the Scary Burger Clown’s frontage will place its ‘al fresco diners’ (heavy-petting burger-wielding Italian teenagers) rather close to the windows of first floor residents.  Not in any sense a good thing, but I guess architecturally neutral, as McD’s will replace a line of previous fast food outlets which in turn replaced the open space for vehicle turning that originally occupied the ground level.

This building, as regular readers might guess, was built as part of the IBA housing exhibition of 1987.

But of more concern form an architectural point of view is what seems to be the creation of a separate small commercial unit, formed by cutting a chunk out of the ground floor entrance to the apartments:

The once spacious entrance lobby is now reduced down to a narrow corridor, with the central column facing cut away and a ceiling for the commercial space inserted:

So another little piece of built history from this period eroded, a piece of architecture thoughtlessly screwed.  Did this work get planning consent?  Did anyone care?  We’ll be finding out shortly.

Success! And more…

2010.04.24

It’s like a sort of IBA-related Christmas, Easter and birthday come at once. Early last week, a Senate Baukollegium was held, where our ‘campaign team’ was able to put its case to Senate Building Director Frau Regula Lüscher, the Mayor of Kreuzberg-Friedrichshain and others.  Robert Slinger, Florian Köhl and Matthias Reese represented the campaign.

The result, officially announced via an interview with Frau Lüscher in today’s Morgenpost, is that the building is to be restored to its original design, including its distinctive colour scheme, which is fantastic news in itself.  But in addition, the borough of Kreuzberg is keen to see the area in front of the tower properly landscaped, and even to see Hejduk’s designs for two small pavilions, Studio for the painter, and Studio for the musician, built on the site.  Both formed part of the original design, and were intended to flank the entrance route to the tower – they were actually constructed for the 1987 IBA exhibition in the Martin Gropius Bau, but are assumed not to have survived.  Images of all this to be added here shortly, in the meantime, a glimpse of the Musician from beneath the Painter (I think) at the exhibition:

Frau Lüscher goes on to say in the interview that although Denkmalschutz (statutory heritage protection) is not the right tool for protecting IBA buildings, a formal procedure is to be established for building owners proposing alterations.

Finally, links to a couple of previous Morgenpost pieces, one on the future of the IBA buildings, the other an interview with Renata Hejduk.  If you have problems reading the full articles, you can usually just google the complete headline, which allows you to bypass the charging system. Oddly.

And finally finally, I notice someone has picked out the Kreuzberg Tower complex on one of the Google-earth-bird’s-eye-view-type things, here.  Interestingly, the building immediately to the west, with a semicircular rear facade, is another IBA building, by Raimund Abraham, who sadly died just a few weeks ago.

Categories : 1980s   IBA 87   John Hejduk
Tags :   

Stopped! Hejduk campaign gets results.

2010.04.12

Having tried (and failed) to link to our latest press release as a Pdf located elsewhere, it seems clearer to simply include it here as a post; it gives a useful update of what’s been going on.  I must admit that I’m just a helper now – the campaign has been picked up from its humble beginnings and rocketed forward by Robert Slinger and Claire Karsenty at Kapok Architects, Ian Warner at SLAB, Florian Köhl at FAT KOEHL ARCHITEKTEN, and Matthias Reese at Reese Architekten, along with many others.

Do keep spreading the word, both about John Hejduk’s building in particular, and about the gradual chipping away at the buildings of the IBA programme in general.

Press release runs as follows:

The campaign to save John Hejduk’s Kreuzberg Tower and Wings in Berlin from defacement has galvanised the international architectural community in the last ten days, and appears to be working and effecting change.

The campaign to save the buildings was set in motion a few weeks ago by Dr. Renata Hejduk, daughter of the architect and professor at the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture at Arizona State University. It was taken up by a group of concerned Berlin architecture activists, who have worked flat out in support of Dr. Hejduk’s efforts to convince the owners to adopt a refurbishment strategy that his faithful to Hejduk’s original intentions.

An online petition was set up to try and save the buildings from the planned alterations after unsuccessful attempts by Dr. Hejduk to have a meaningful discussion with the building’s owners. Two Berlin architecture blogs, “SLAB-mag” and “Architecture in Berlin” have provided a running commentary of ongoing developments. Now the public pressure generated by the campaign and its supporters appears to be paying off.

The building’s managers, BerlinHaus GmbH have replaced images of the purple and white proposals with a written statement to the overwhelming reaction. In it they indicate a willingness to engage in discussions to arrive at broader consent. Their statement is quoted in full below.

In addition, as a result of the campaign, Matthias Peckskamp, Head of the Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg urban planning department has approached the owners via their architect, in the hope of seeking a more sympathetic approach. BerlinHaus informed him that the site work has been halted until agreement can be reached. In addition, the Berlin Senate has become involved, with Senate Building Director Regula Lüscher set to act as a mediating party between the owners, the city and representatives of the Hejduk estate in a meeting set for 19th April. Mr. Peckskamp hopes a resolution here could set a positive precedent for other threatened IBA schemes in the future.

In just two weeks, the online petition garnered almost 3,000 signatories from all over the world. The impressive list of supporters includes prominent architects such as:

Peter Eisenman

Steven Holl

Bernard Tschumi

Daniel and Nina Libeskind

Shigeru Ban

Henning Larsen

Michael Rotondi

Thom Mayne of Morphosis

Sir Peter Cook

Elizabeth Diller, Ricardo Scofidio, and Charles Renfro of D S+R in New York

Jean Philippe Vassal of Lacaton & Vassal in Paris

Raoul Bunschoten of Chora in London

Donald Bates of LAB in Melbourne

Gunter Zamp Kelp, Berlin

Jan Kleihues of Kleihues+Kleihues in Berlin

Michael Sorkin, New York

Lebbeus Woods

Matthias Sauerbruch and Louise Hutton of sauerbruch + hutton

Julia Bolles and Peter Wilson

as well as a host academics and historians including:

Joseph Rykwert of the University of Pennsylvania

Anthony Vidler, Dean of the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture Cooper Union in New York

K. Michael Hays of the Harvard University Graduate School of Design

Stan Allen, Dean of the School of Architecture at Princeton University

Prof. Alberto Perez-Gomez ,Professor at McGill University in Montreal

Prof. Wim van den Bergh, Professor at RWTH, Maastricht and Aachen University

Christine Hawley of UCL, London

Peter Carl of LMU, London

Ben Nicholson, Associate Professor at the Institute of Chicago

As well as signing the petition many supporters have also voiced support for the effort as well as the importance of John Hejduk’s work and legacy.

Steven Holl said:

Considering the last half of the 20th century, only three architects lifted the culture of architecture into the realm of poetry: Louis Kahn, Louis Barragan and certainly John Hejduk.”

Shigeru Ban said:

‘‘John Hejduk was one of the most influential educators and architects of our time. John’s IBA tower in Berlin embodies a message of selflessness in a world so often dominated by greed.”

Mohsen Mostafavi, Dean of Harvard University Graduate School of Design, said:

John Hejduk’s Berlin Tower is a rare example of architecture from one of the 20th century’s most poetic architects. We should do all we can to preserve and celebrate it.”

Michel Sorkin said:

The good news of the renovation of John Hejduk’s wonderful Berlin Tower is betrayed by the whimsical vandalism of its “restorers.”  What next?  Perhaps the Blue Mosque would be more satisfying in pink.”

John Hejduk is best known as one of the ‘New York Five’, as Dean of the Cooper Union School of Architecture in New York, and for his many published projects and writings which influenced a generation of architects. The Kreuzberg Tower is one of only a handful of built works by this influential architect. Berlin has three examples, all social housing schemes built as part of the IBA 1987 international building exhibition.

Managers Berlinhaus: (http://www.berlinhaus.de/)

Statement regarding the works:

Images of their proposals can be seen here: http://fantasticjournal.blogspot.com/2010/03/disturbance-at-hejduk-house.html.

English translation of statement from BerlinHaus (from their website):

Project development Charlottenstraße 96-97

As new owners of the building ensemble Charlottenstraße 96-97 in Berlin – Kreuzberg we are planning urgently necessary facade repairs.

After the completion of some initial works, we have received repeated requests to engage in a broader public discussion in respect to the design of the facades, and to consider the special characteristics of the building and its architecture.

We see ourselves as a responsible company, which does not only undertake refurbishment for the preservation and increase in property values, but acknowledges the interaction which takes place between such measures and their surroundings and site specific conditions.

Therefore we are glad to face up to the challenge of finding broad design consent.

First discussions are currently taking place into how a promising inclusion of different interest groups can be achieved.

We are glad to continuously keep you informed about the current state of this process.

Categories : 1980s   IBA 87   John Hejduk
Tags :     

Hejduk hits the press…

2010.03.29

A quick update to report that the Berliner Morgenpost have run the story here.  As someone has helpfully pointed out, you can read the rest of the article (the BM is one of those publications who think ring-fencing their content online is going to save them) by Googling “Stararchitekten kämpfen für den Kreuzberg-Turm” and clicking on the results.

I don’t want to prejudice any discussions currently ongoing, so can’t say much yet about what else is happening in terms of the actual status of the refurbishment works. But plenty is…

I will say though that the petition is approaching 3,000, and likely to be wound up at the end of this week, so do sign if you haven’t already.

Thanks again for the huge support which so many of you have given this campaign.

Further update, Tuesday 30th March – today’s print version of the Berliner Morgenpost carried the same text, but with a supportive and substantial quotation from Daniel Libeskind.

Stararchitekten kämpfen für den Kreuzberg-Turm

Tags :     

Hejduk latest

2010.03.21

27 March:

As usual, a good summary over at SLAB, with things moving on apace. And the petition, which as Ian at SLAB notes has become a Who’s Who of architectural ‘names’, stood at 2553. Which is nice.

23 March:

BerlinHaus have posted an interesting statement on their site, here, in essence saying that they recognise the strength of public feeling and are willing to enter into dialogue about the building’s facades.  A little unclear, but sounds like promising news.

Thanks to everyone who’s supported us so far!

At the moment of writing, the petition over 1300 signatures, including a host of influential figures.

21 March:

The word is spreading across a plethora of blogs and online publications – thanks to everyone who’s carrying this – I hope to go back and read all the new sites I’ve discovered in the last few days, and will be linking and promoting in return!

Interestingly, developer Berlinhaus have removed their architect’s proposal images from their site and replaced them with an image of the buildings before the work started (which doesn’t, to be honest, give a very good impression as they look quite dilapidated).

Ian over at SLAB-mag has a thorough and detailed update on all of this, so I won’t attempt to reproduce it all here – his post also still has the original proposal images. Berlinhaus have recently commented that the balconies and sunshades shown in these images are in fact not pink, but blue.  Ian’s keen camera may have spotted one, although he’s not sure whether it’s just an undercoat:

(thanks Ian for the photo)

A small sample of the people carrying the story:

sleek magazine

Urbanophil

archinect

Fantastic Journal

Abitare

Ateliernet

The Architect’s Newspaper

Nicht Winken in der Haupstadt

…and many, many more, as they say.

Categories : IBA 87   John Hejduk   Kreuzberg