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

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

Hejduk defacement, the story continues…

2010.03.17

Seems this story has really started to roll since I first heard from Renata Hejduk a few days ago, about the thoughtless and unsympathetic alterations currently being carried out to her father’s building on Charlottenstrasse (see previous post).

This is largely due to the huge effort being made by Ian over at SLAB and architect Robert Slinger, of Kapok architects. (Robert also once lived in the building himself, and has a passion for Hejduk’s work).

I’ve spoken to a lot of people about this, and some have admitted that the building doesn’t appeal to them as a place to live, or as great architecture.  Perhaps understandable, given the lack of maintenance it received over the last few years, the fact that any original landscaping has long been reduced to scrub, and that there remains a large unoccupied and unlandscaped patch of land which the apartments overlook.  But I’d urge you to read what Robert has to say about living there, and read a little about Hejduk’s work.  I’ve said this before, but in my view Berlin is building very little anymore of real architectural interest or originality; it therefore seems bizarre that it shows so little respect for existing buildings that do possess such qualities.

A press release is circulating to a number of german and english magazines, with an online petition due to be up and running (hopefully!) today. Will add a link as soon as this is live.

I’m posting the bulk of the press release here, as I think it gives a useful summary:

The ‘Tower’ – actually a suite comprising a thin, 14-storey tower set between two 5-storey wings – 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.

The Kreuzberg Tower ensemble is typical of Hejduk’s late work, exhibiting an intense fascination with simple geometric forms, narrative mythologies and anthropomorphic symbolism. Hejduk’s three Berlin schemes bucked the colourful post-modern trends of the time with a subdued colour palette of grey and green, described by the architect as homage to the unique sky and the built fabric of the city

The present owners acquired the buildings recently as a result of a foreclosure, which followed many years of neglect. As part of ongoing refurbishment works, they have published images of the planned changes showing the removal of the distinctive sun shades over windows, enlarged balconies, and a new colour scheme in a white and bright pink, described by managers BerlinHaus Verwaltung GmbH as “tasteful living” and “apartments in Bauhaus style”. In parallel with the renovation, current tenants are being forced to move out as a result of drastic rent increases.

Doctor Renata Hejduk, the daughter of the John Hejduk and an architectural historian,, contacted the owner earlier this year to discuss the building alterations, but received only a dismissive response. She commented: “I tried everything I could to get them to stop and at least consult with the Estate and other architects who were interested in helping to preserve them. They were completely uninterested and felt their facade changes would be much better than the original.”

John Hejduk, best known as one of the ‘New York Five’ group that included Peter Eisenmann and Richard Meier, and as Dean of the Cooper Union School of Art and Architecture in New York from 1972 until 2000.

Categories : IBA 87   John Hejduk   Kreuzberg

Heinrich-Zille-Grundschule – Werkfabrik Architekten

2009.10.04

For ages now I’ve really wanted to look more closely at some of the buildings I blog about, rather than just a few snaps and some jokey comments.  So here’s the first of them.

Regular readers will be unsurprised to hear that it’s a project which was a part of the 1987 International Bauaustellung (IBA).  It fell under the ‘Altbau/Careful Urban Renewal’ half of the programme, i.e. projects which worked with local communities and user groups to expand and improve existing buildings and facilities; intervention rather than freestanding architecture.

The Heinrich Zille school occupies the core parts of Block 101, the block immediately to the west of Lausitzer Platz, Kreuzberg, bounded by Skalitzer-, Manteuffel- and Waldemarstrasse.  It intrigued me, because so little can be seen from the street – just a few tantalising glimpses of odd shaped buildings locking ingeniously into older structures.  The site is complex – buildings from the pre-existing school were integrated into a new plan, to include a child daycare centre.  Multiple architects were involved at the time, and the waters are further muddied by the fact that the daycare centre has been removed and additional school buildings added over the proceeding years.

View from Lausitzer Platz:

But I’ve been really lucky here.  The original architect, Margarete Winkes of Werkfabrik, agreed to meet me and walk around the building (she’d left a comment on the blog pointing out that when I first mentioned the school – I’d listed the architects incorrectly).

I’d spent some time beforehand trying to work out which architects designed which parts of the complex site, but the first thing Frau Winkes emphasized was that trying to describe the whole thing in formal contractual terms, ‘who did what and exactly where’, was to miss the point.  IBA Altbau gave local groups, architects and others the chance to experiment.  The IBA organisation had no brief or programme for the design.  Instead, this was negotiated over the period of a year, between the school, four architects’ practices, and other stakeholders, all working collaboratively to come up with a single solution.

At first, the project manager in me (I used to be one) wanted to shout “But how did this possibly work? What about cost control?”  But these projects, while not free of budget limits, were at least free of the thinking that has eventually became the dead hand of ‘Value Engineering’, and are perhaps all the better for it.  I’m not sure that such a level of invention and genuine stakeholder involvement would be at all possible now.

The project outlived the IBA, which at the end of the 1980s transformed itself into S.T.E.R.N., the private body which took over the IBA Altbau’s legacy and oversaw completion of many of the ongoing schemes, albeit with a much reduced budget.  It’s interesting that, according to Frau Winkes, there was little contact between the Neubau and Altbau IBAs; they were two almost unrelated programmes, with very differing aims.  I’ve often heard them referred to as the ‘rich and poor IBAs’, mainly by those who worked on the Altbau programme such as Alvaro Siza.

As noted above, Frau Winkes emphasized that, as with many IBA Altbau projects, the aim was not to produce Architecture with a capital ‘A’, but to create working facilities for local groups and institutions, which in Kreuzberg by the 1980s were in a state of advanced urban decay, where poverty, high levels of squatting and social disadvantage had become a political embarressment for West Berlin.

Having been told that ‘it’s not about the architecture’, we proceeded to walk around the school, and  I found Werkfabrik’s designs both impressive and – a term not often used in architectural criticism – full of charm.  I was reminded of some of the late Ralph Erskine’s work, famous for his inclusion of residents and building users in the design process to produce a quirky non-standard architecture.

A note here: this summer the school has been undergoing external renovation works, which are still ongoing at the time of writing.  The outside of the key buildings were scaffolded, and as it was an informal visit, we couldn’t access all the interior rooms.  I’ve included some shots here to give a flavour (with more here) but will be going back to do a proper session soon.

Frau Winkes pointed out that the ongoing works had made some significant changes to some of the exerior detailing – compare these two images for instance:

This led to discussion about the legality of such changes.  In Germany (as I understand it) legal copyright rests in the first instance with the architect, who should be consulted on such changes – a very different position to the UK.  I’m no expert in this area, so will say no more on the subject, as so far this blog has remained free of legal action.  But perhaps a later post on this theme – it’s an interesting and important one – with the case of Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof being the most notable.

Werkfabrik were, at the time, the youngest of the architectural practices involved in the project, and felt they were working more in the spirit of the IBA and experimentation than their more conservative colleagues.  I’m under the impression that Werkfabrik led the design process, although can’t confirm the contractual positions.  The listing in the IBA 1987 Project Report is complicated, and I’m guessing further confused by translation (the terms ‘planning’ and ‘design’ seem interchangeable) so for completeness I will quote in full:

School: preliminary report Burtin/Schulz, co-operative planning procedure (Archiplan, Burtin/Schulz, Werkfabrik); work on planning documents: Werkfabrik; educational plan for the neighbourhood school: Zimmer.

Child day-care centre: preliminary design – Werkfabrik.

In any event, Frau Winkes/Werkfabrik were clearly responsible for the design of the elements of the school which we looked at.  There were an amazing twenty detailed drafts of the design before the final scheme, done over the period of a year.  The construction process ran on into the 1990s, and “became horrible” after the demise of the IBA (I take it from this that S.T.E.R.N. were much less involved).  Despite strained relations with the school in the later phase of the work, Frau Winkes felt that Werkfabrik got their way with the design as finally built, and this rings true when you see some of the detailing and the carefully thought through interior spaces.

Some major elements of the original design, including a large hall between the firewalls of the existing buildings, along with ambitious plans to place the gym underneath one of the old retained buildings (by architect Ludwig Hoffmann, apparently) failed to make the final cut.  But these issues were evidently due more to budget restraints and technical issues than objections from other involved parties, and the end solution worked well for the teaching staff.

And the final result achieved the real aim: to promote the spaces and interstices around the buildings, to improve the overall ‘urbanity’ of such places without creating expensive ’show architecture’.

We chatted more generally about the legacy of the IBA, and about my pet theory that ironically, the IBA’s role in helping to rescue run-down Kreuzberg sowed the seeds of the gentrification now pushing its original beneficiaries out of the area.  Frau Winkes felt there was some truth in this, but also felt that the IBA saved communities and anchored residents to an area which would otherwise have been decimated by the planned motorway, and by more development such as that at nearby Kottbusser Tor.

Werkfabrik did one other building as part of the IBA; a creche at nearby Oppelner Strasse 21/22, although they tell me that this has since been heavily altered and there is little to see of their original scheme.

Huge thanks to Margarete Winkes and her partner, and also to Helen Ferguson, for her invaluable translation work!

Some more images, as I know you like them.  Like I say, will be back to do this properly soon, plus have a few more here.



Students’ storage and toilets provided for each classroom (with the structure suspended from above to minimise load on the floor)

Still here…

2009.09.23

It’s been manic lately, so not much time to blog, sorry. So instead, a few snaps of things I’ve been up to recently, like a sort of intermission, while I’m away. Will have a bit more time next week, so prepare yourselves for more incisive, thoughtful and witty writing on architecture. Then be disappointed, and just read my blog instead, ha, ha.

The Tag des Offenen Denkmals was good fun, although I got lazy on the sunday (2nd day) and decided not to do much.  Did the Akademie der Kunst (new branch on Pariserplatz) in which the highlight was the basement (below) and the Haus des Lehrers, in which the highlight was the bit where they stopped the dumb corporate light show in the main chamber so we could actually have a good look at it:

… an amazing school on Lausitzerplatz (which I’ve mentioned before, part of the IBA) which I was able to go round with Werkfabrik, the original architects:

and from tomorrow, I’ll be manning a stand for Art in America magazine, over at the Art Forum Berlin:

Popping across the road to see Hans Poelzig’s wonderful Haus des Rundfunk (House of Radio)

and wondering why so much new architecture in Berlin is just so, well, crap. This, the Zoofenster building, which could have been so much better.

Will write lots about each of these very soon. Promise!

Zu Hause

2009.08.27

The recession doesn’t seem to have greatly slowed the gentrification of the poor-but-central parts of Berlin.  From where I sit, I look across the Landwehrkanal into Reuterkiez, a rapidly trendifying area of new nightlife and newly annoyed neighbours.  Old Ecke bars are closing on a daily basis, and being replaced by the Berlin cliché of bar-galleries, replete with 1970s cast-off furniture and randomly exposed brickwork.

Gentrification is most visible in Berlin where the Wall left a swathe of open spaces, which have gradually been filled in.  Nearly all will be gone within the next five years, I would guess.  Below are a few snaps I took the other evening on my way into Mitte, mainly of the sites being infilled around where the upper part of Dresdener Straaße meets Waldemarstraße (still a blank patch on Google maps at time of writing).  Note the line of the wall, visible as a double line of cobbles across the road, in at least one of these:


Here’s what I thought had happened:  in the early 1990s after the wall came down, a huge amount of capital flowed into Berlin, invested on the assumption that the newly reinstated capital would grow significantly and become a bustling metropolis once again.  The big money went into office construction and such-like (see Potzdamerplatz in particular) but was later followed by lots of smaller investors pouring their Irish and Spanish euros / British pounds into buy-to-let apartment speculation.

Then everyone suddenly remembered that Berlin had no real industry anymore (east german industry had all closed by this point).  The only ‘industry’ to speak of was government, and even then most cicil servants still secretly lived in Bonn and commuted.  Berlin had spent lots of money on its new infrastructure but recouped not much at all through business tax, and is now very broke.

Some days, all the above seems to be true.  The Berlin government certainly is broke, and it seems that a range of terrible, lacklustre designs are waved through by planners on the basis that ‘anything is better than nothing’.  The ongoing development of the Media Spree has ground to a halt.  But no-one seems to have told housebuilders, who are carrying on regardless.  There still appears to be a steady stream of luxury apartments going up, at least at all points east.  Recession-proof Berlin?  Seems unlikely.

So I welcome comments from economists,  investors, planners, architects or builders who can explain this.  Are people moving from west to east because it’s cheaper?  Are people moving back in from surrounding Brandenburg, where they spread out to over the last two decades?  Or is it just my selective perception, where I spot all of the relatively small number of new buildings going up?  Do get in touch if you know the answer.

Along Kochstrasse… part 3

2009.08.16

Actually this is not even on Kochstrasse, but continuing east along the road which used to be Oranienstrasse but I think has changed its name, at least at the western end, for the usual historico-political reasons that allow the Berlin senate to believe that they respect Berlin’s recent difficult history while actually being hellbent on the complete erasure of anything that might hint of anything that doesn’t fit with a cosy rightwing conservative heritage-based tourist-driven view of the past, grrr…

[Later note: I was completely wrong about the above, ha, ha.  Well, at least in this particular case.  A couple of years ago, the section of Kochstrasse from Checkpoint Charlie to the point where it becomes Oranienstrasse was changed to Rudi Dutschke Strasse.  Rudi Dutschke, as any fool knows (except me up until now) was the left-wing activist shot by a right-wing assassin in 1968 (he survived the attacke but died some years later from injuries sustained in the shooting).  Ironically, the new Rudi-Dutschke-Straße connects with Axel-Springer-Straße, so called because the offices of the giant Axel Springer publishing group stand at this junction; the same group who were at the time of the shooting were running a Daily Mail-style hate campaign against him.  The Springer group also campaigned against the street name change, unsuccesfully.  So apologies for misinforming you.]

Where was I?  Oh yes, another IBA building.  It’s tucked into the corner of the block which is mainly the vast Bundesdruckerie (it’s just a license to print money, ha, ha).

This is part of  IBA Block 24, and known as the “Alte Feuerwache” (”Old Firestation”) – a centre for young people.  Seems to work, as there were lots of them about when I popped in, doing their young-people related activities.  It’s a partial reconstruction and adaptation of existing buildings, with a sort of big bridge sort thing.

Not immediately obvious from the street – there’s an entrance at Lindenstrasse 40/41, with a cafe.  The work is by Heinz-Jürgen Drews, in association with Architekturbüro Durchbruch and Ing-Gruppe Ökotec (power-heated-energy system) by the way.

My IBA main page here.