He's not dead, he's just resting…

2009.05.25

I’d be the first to admit that I’m not always the most frequent of bloggers, and I could come up with all sorts of excuses for this, but I’m guessing that your time is short.  I will however just casually mention that I’ve just finished cycling from Vienna to Dresden, and therefore

a) there was not much time for blogging, and

b) wireless reception was poor in the Czech Republic, plus it’s hard to balance a keyboard on bike handlebars.

So just a quick one, to promise that I will write some proper posts shortly (I returned home to find that a publisher has sent me a whole pack of goodies, which I’ll be reviewing here as soon as I’ve read them) and to post an image sent me a while back from Pedro in Porto.  It shows part of Alvaro Siza’s Bonjour Tristesse project; Siza planned the whole block, which includes two other new structures, as well as the more familiar corner building.

I’m a big fan of Siza’s work, which generally comprises beautifully proportioned white buildings standing in perpetual southern european sunlight, like this one:

(image thanks, OunoDesign)

Whereas here in the Haupstadt, his design has been ‘Berlinified’, courtesy of the youth of Kreuzberg:

They’re not Kreuzberg youth in the picture by the way – it’s an old folks’ day centre (although the old lady pictured appears to be stealing a chair, rather than going for a chat about the old days).  It’s on Falckensteinstrasse, and there’s a very good ice cream parlour next door, if you’re out this way.  Obviously don’t forget to look at Bonjour Tristesse itself, which is out of shot to the right.

BERLIM: Reconstrução Crítica

2008.11.11

Just back from a very rewarding conference in Porto on “Berlin: Critical Reconstruction“, an event covering, well, just about everything I’m interested in here Berlin.

Speakers included Alvaro Siza Viera, together with other architects who have built, or competed to build, in Berlin, as well as film makers, planners and commentators.

A big question was whether ‘Critical Reconstruction’, i.e. the carefully planned and controlled reconstruction of post-wall Berlin established largely by J P Kleihues through the International Building Exhibition of the 1980s, is now dead.  Strong arguments were put that this was the case – that Critical Reconstruction as a policy had worked when money was pouring into Berlin in the 1990s, with investors and architects having to bend to the will of the city authorities, but is now failing, due to the city’s current desperation to attract any construction investment, however gaudy the proposals.  Understandably, this theory was rejected by those representing Berlin’s planning authority.

It was interesting to hear Siza refer to ‘rich IBA’ and ‘poor IBA’ rather than the official ‘Neubau’ and ‘Altbau’ labels, referring, I guess, to the fact that much of the Altbau work was in the much poorer district of Kreuzberg, as opposed to the Neubau townhouses across in Tiergarten. (For examples compare Siza’s own Bonjour Tristesse block with the buildings at Rauchstrasse.)

I could write for hours on the whole thing, but will resist doing so as I don’t want to deter any readers not passionate about architectural theory.  Instead, will just mention what a beautiful city Porto is, and that in the short period I was there I just had time to see Rem Koolhaas’s spectacular Case da Musica, as well as the finely crafted new metro stations (by Siza’s partner Eduardo Souto de Moura).

The venue for the conference, by the way, was Siza’s own building for the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art.

Need to upload the images I took shortly, in the meantime have stolen a couple from z.z on Flickr.  Actually, well worth a browse: http://flickr.com/photos/89707735@N00/sets/.

One of the Metro stations, Casa da Musica, Serralves Museum:

I went on a tour of Rem’s Dutch embassy here in Berlin last week, by the way, so a post on that forthcoming, with lots of comparisons with his Porto building.

Architecture in Berlin (and Porto)

2008.10.25

The Iberian peninsula has been at the cutting edge of all things architectural for a while now, but despite this, it also seems to be cornering the market in debating architecture elsewhere.

“Berlin: Critical Reconstruction” is a conference being held 4th – 8th November in Porto, Portugal (if only there was this level of interest here in Berlin…).  It describes itself as

“…providing a forum for debate on the history of architecture and urbanism in the 20th century, by means of a critical reflection on the mythical urban experience of Berlin. The event’s subtitle, ‘Critical Reconstruction’ allows for two interpretations – a direct allusion to the urban planning method developed by the architect Josef Paul Kleihues in the eighties, during the Internationale Bauausstellung – IBA; and the desire to critically reconstruct Berlin, to return to its history, its dilemmas, its controversies, reassessing and debating the results of this method.”

The ‘big day’ is saturday 8th, when speakers will include Álvaro Siza Vieira himself, recent RIBA gold medal winner (not to mention the Pritzker a while back) and a man with previous form here in Berlin of course.

So highly recommended if you’re in Porto/Portugal, or are one of those glamorous people able to shoot off to conferences around the world as the mood takes you.

Links

http://berlim-reconstrucaocritica.blogspot.com

http://circodeideias.pt/berlim