New kid on the block.


In recent days, I’ve done little but run the cafe*, make and deliver cake, which means that I don’t get out and about to see  architecture in far flung parts of Berlin much.

*although hardly single-handed, as my wife would be quick to point out.

Moritzplatz, however, is where I deliver cake twice a week; one drop-off at the co-working space Betahaus, the second at the cafe deep inside the former industrial block / now shared art workshop-space / home of the fabulous Ritte Butzke club, that is Aqua Carre.

Anyway, most Berlin architects will be familiar with Modulor, the suppliers of everything an architect needs to to sketch and model their creations. As well as providing useful boards and clips for making our cafe menus. Modulor is about to move into its new and highly ambitious premises on one corner of Moritzplatz (well ‘edge’ really – it’s a roundabout).  It’s to be called Planet Modulor, and as well as hosting Modulor’s own expanded premises, will also have many other occupants including a publisher, a bookshop, bakery, gallery and cafes. I notice that Dan Borden has just written about it in his regular archi column in ExBerliner, so I won’t repeat his fine words, but instead post some pictures of when the building was under construction.  Grand opening on 13 – 16th June, apparently.


The building retains the concrete frame of the former Bechsteinhaus with additional insitu cast concrete.  What made me smile was that the cast concrete is then being clad in a special cladding which makes the building appear to be made of… precast concrete.  Telling fibs to tell the truth, or whatever it was Mies claimed when the ‘Elf and Safety made him put fire protection over a steel frame, which he then covered in fake steel beam casings. Or something. (I’ve never really been much interested much in the ‘Greats’ of modernism and their attendant mythologies.)



I like the panelling though, so that’s alright.

Directly across the road from this piece of cool neo-brutalism is the fabulous Prinzessinengarten, a temporary garden-come-city farm growing all sorts of interesting things, on the landlord’s proviso that everything can be moved on within a few weeks, hence everything, including many of the trees, are in large planters.  Before the war, a Wertheim department store stood on the site, a signifier that this was once the major retail hub of this quarter of Berlin, never rebuilt, since (as anyone who’s sad enough to have read major portions of this blog will know) this end of Kreuzberg became something of a backwater when the Berlin effectively made it into a peninsula, on the edge of nowhere much. Immediately north of Moritzplatz was a major crossing checkpoint, now occupied by a used car lot and, naturally, a branch of Lidl.  The U-Bahn continued to run through Moritzplatz, but ran non-stop through East Berlin, with stations in the east closed off and guarded.  Strange times.

(Image is of the department store. Not of Lidl.)

Apropos of nothing much, I’ve just come across the image below, while I was looking for the ones above, which I took last summer.  Because Berlin is built on a swamp, every new building with a basement needs to pump water out of the construction site around the clock, hence the enormous pink and blue pipe systems that you still see running down the streets.  In the case of Modulor, they needed to run them round Prinzessinen’s perimeter for some reason, whilst still maintaining access, which led to some fabulous moments like this (now long gone, sadly)


So it’s all going on at Moritzplatz, basically – I recommend going to check it all out.  And remember that you heard it here, er, second.

Within driving range.


It’s still snowing, which should mean that I’m out and about taking lots of pictures of interesting buildings covered in snow.  But I’ve decided not to venture out until spring (with the exception of the Stammtisch on 19th Jan of course) and am therefore continuing to raid my back catalogue of pics for inspiration.  Ah, memories…

Even though Berlin is now more built up than it has been for all of the second half of the twentieth century, it remains (probably) the only western capital city to have enough space to host a golf driving range in its centre.  Then abandon it.  Having already positioned said driving range within an even bigger area of post-industrial wasteland.  In turn surrounded by semi-abandoned buildings.  It’s here (the green bit roughly in the middle).

I’m never sure whether I’m exaggerating to myself here.  Is Berlin really that deserted compared to the only comparitor city that I know really well, London?  And is London really that manically full of people and things, all of them in a hurry?

Anyway, the space in question has everything; formally a vast goods yard/train-type-thing south of the Kanal from Potsdamer Platz – which you can see in the distance in some of the photos.  That sense therefore, of being in a lonely place where something exciting is happening in the distance (don’t worry – it’s Potsdamer Platz, so in fact nothing very exciting is happening).  Abandoned things.

Post blog note: have now looked this site up (via my IBA guide, at least) which shows it as the ‘Former Potsdam Goods Station’, and at the time the book was published, around 1990, still shows tracks and railway buildings.  The buildings immediately to the west, on Flotwell Strasse, were in the IBA programme as blocks 228 – 240, to be redeveloped to a masterplan by Daniel Libeskind.  It looks typically angular, shard-like and bonkers, with a single long rectangualr structure spanning the site longways (north-south) at high level, as a sort of bridge.  The IBA report notes the status as “Finance for Libeskind project open at present”.  Which is a euphemism for ‘nice idea, but no money, sorry’.

The site is just to the west of the huge abandoned train yard which served the Anhalter Station.  The train turntable sheds are now incorporated in the rather fabulous Technikmuseum – well worth a visit – and includes a vast model railway of part of the goods yards and the Anhalter station itself.

The rear end of the Bombadier company, who still make trains:

Gleisdreieck* U-Bahn station (*’Three-cornered platform’, I guess).

Apologies for poor photo quality – it was darker than it looks, I pressed the wrong buttons on the camera, and had no tripod.

It’s just occurred to me that this post, and several others preceding it, are not really about architecture at all.  Urbanism, at a push maybe.  Sorry for that.  I don’t blame you really for visiting a site called ‘Architecture in Berlin’ and complaining that it should have been called ‘Gloomy Places in Berlin’.  A host of sunlit happy buildings to be featured soon.

Wedding day


I was in the Berlin district of Wedding the other day (of which I know little) and spotted some interesting buildings (of which I know nothing).

If you can tell me anything about these, I will by you a beer/drink of your choice (if you come along to the next Stammtisch – see previous post).

These are the kind of days I love in Berlin.  Just me, a bike, and some unfashionably arcane architecture.

The first one is on Kolberger Strasse, and appears to be a kind of curious cross between hardnosed brutalism and, er, fey postmodernism.  It’s just wrong.  But I love it.

Excuse the new photo size, by the way.  Flickr has just redesigned itself to be less flexible.  Which is not particularly interesting, sorry.

Also on the same side of the street (below).  You hate it, don’t you?

Immediately around the back of the buildings across the street, following the little river, is a classic Berlin abandoned-victorian-industrial affair which, unusually, was really securely fenced off.  So I failed to gain entry, sadly.  What’s the world coming to if you can’t break in to an abandoned building?  Looks like a pumping station, by the way.

Someone told me the other night that cool dance/event space Radial System V, converted from a pumping station, is in fact one of five (the ‘V’ is a clue here, I see) named ‘Radial System I’, ‘Radial SystemII’ etc.  Is this one perhaps?

Just up the road, at Brunnenplatz, is an extension (or rather rebuilding) of the rear wing of the crazy ‘Addams Family’ castle-cum-Amtsgericht.  I know that I’m now in a minority of one, if I say I like it.  Persuade me otherwise, over that beer:

Note, in the image above, the ‘hilarious’ neogothic window references, turned 90 degrees at the top of the main facade.  Is this charming-but-not-great, quite clever, or just awful?  My internal battle of taste continues…

The original building:

House of Travel, travelling.


Here’s a funny thing.  Artist Alexander Callsen has created a scale replica of the Haus des Reisens (’House of Travel’) in Alexanderplatz, and erected it up a mountain in the south of France.

Images above, copyright Alexander Callsen.

The information he circulated is brief, but it’s part of the Horizons art festival in the Auvergne region of France.  Ends on 20th Sept, so depending on when you’re reading this, you’ve probably missed it. Sorry.

Essentially a scaffold structure has been covered in canvas with photo-images of the original building’s elevations – pretty effective, looking at the images.

The real Haus des Reisens was built by the GDR between 1969 and 1971, and stands in Alexanderplatz, a place on which I have previously wittered. I’m not sure why such a large building was needed, since most citizens of the GDR weren’t able to travel anywhere much.  Ironic then that the building itself has been on a trip, sort of.

The Haus des Reisens, back in the day.  (Image from Wikimedia commons)

The building is currently only partially occupied, with the Week12end club (sic) having two floors, including the roof terrace (worth a visit just to see the view, if you can force your way past the neverending flow of drunken italian 17-year-olds on the staircase).



Fair enough.  After a not inconsiderable amount of soul searching, I’ve decided to join the Twittering classes, and as of today can be found at


on Twitter.  I promise to steer clear of any notifications of my domestic arrangements, moods or the wherabouts of some personal item that I’ve mislaid.  Just the purest architecture related things.  In Berlin.

I also won’t twitter while I’m away.  Unless it’s something really interesting.

Categories : Oddities

Concrete cubes.


This was meant to be a blog all about the new housing out at Rummelsburger Bucht.  I set off there this morning, and stopped en route to take a couple of snaps of an interesting thing (see below).  But while I was photographing the interesting thing, my camera battery went dead.  Hence I’m now back at home, and this post will be about the interesting thing instead.

It’s actually four interesting things, set in four courtyards of a coolly renovated industrial building on the corner of Rotherstrasse and Naglerstrasse, round the back of Warschauer Bahnhof.

In each of the building’s four courtyards is a storey-height concrete cube.  Each cube has water permanently trickling down its sides – a sort of fountain in fact – and this water is gradually destroying the structure of the concrete.  Thick moss and lichens grow on the faces of the cubes. Cracks appear. Chunks of the conrete break off, forming miniature caverns.

Worth seeing if you’re passing by.

Dies und Das


Yesterday the sun came out in Berlin, and there was much confusion and fear, followed by rejoicing when people realised what it was.  I thought to myself: “If it’s sunny again tomorrow, I’ll set off and take pictures of some of the many things I want to blog about”.

Today is saturday.  It’s cold, grey and uninviting outside, much like the last three months or so in Berlin, as far as I can remember.  So I’ve decided to stay in the warm and do a blog about… well, not sure really. I’ve been looking through a backlog of things that I’ve photographed or read about but haven’t never got round to mentioning.  Here are a couple.

I thought I would do a sort of ‘bunker collection page’ at some point.  I’ve previously mentioned the Boros collection and the biggy on Pallasstrasse.  Here’s another one, on Schöneberger Strasse, built in 1943:

It currently houses a small exhibition about the bunker itself, and also the Gruselkabinett, a kind of grisly Madame Tussaud’s type affair, if you like that sort of thing. It was retained as part of IBA Block 14, which included the construction of a new school.

The building was next to the huge Anhalter station, heavily damaged in the war, with only a bit of the entrance remaining; it’s the thing you pass on the M29 bus:

Thanks to Burak Bilgin, who I’ve nicked the Flickr image from.  In fact, there’s a set of images on Flickr of Berlin 1959/1960, by Allhails, which includes a couple of the station before total demolition:

Which reminds me that I wanted to mention the M29 bus route, as a fine thing in itself.  I think of it as a sort of ‘IBA express’; it runs through much of Kreuzberg and right past many of the IBA buildings which I’ve blogged about, as well as loads more interesting things which I haven’t.  Might do a full guide at some point.

I also never got round to including some various blocks on my IBA list, mainly because they were just a bit disappointing, even though it was a lovely summer’s day (that’s how long I’ve put off writing anything about them).

See what I mean?  Even I have to admit that not every building constructed as part of the International Bauaustellung 1984/87 really gets me excited.  Actually, the building opposite the one above interested me much more; it’s on the corner of the river bank and Potsdamer Strasse, directly opposite the Neue Nationalgalerie:

It looks to my untrained eye like a 1920s modernist building with a quite cool Foster-ish two storey extension on top.  In fact, have just checked my guidebook, and this is true: 1929, by Loeser & Wolff, although I don’t know who did the new part. Its facade is finely proportioned and detailed (as architecture critics would say) and I like it very much.

Anyway, while I’ve been wittering away, the sun has come out, so am off out for a late breakfast.

Post blog note: yes I did know it was Valentine’s day.  Me and the missus went out that evening, since you ask.

Round the back of the Bahnhof.


I haven’t blogged for a while, as I’ve been a bit busy doing an intensive language course, going to Berlinale stuff, making new chums and helping out with some projects, you know how it is. Too many excuses already, so here’s a short post.

It’s slightly Berlinale related in fact, as I was on my way to see a film at the Hamburger Bahnhof, and a curious thing caught my eye as I walked across from the still-desolate area immediately to the east.

I must apologise for the photo quality by the way.  The fact that I only had my phone on me is not such a good excuse these days, as phones can have half decent cameras, but there it is; I’m a cheapskate.  Ironically, someone left a message on my previous post admiring the image quality and asking what camera I used.  The images below demonstrate perhaps that I use an old cardboard box with a pinhole in it.

It’s good, isn’t it? (The construction, not the image, obviously.)  I think basically it’s a corridor for transferring items from the main gallery spaces to the storage shed across the road.  But what a cool way of achieving a mundane task; it’s just so… suspended.

Here’s a much better image, beautiful in fact, by someone else (A. Zerche – take a stroll round his/her collection, there’s some good stuff).

This me again below, can you tell?

Anyway, behind it, or underneath it, you can just make out a second interesting thing.  It looks at first glance like a small ruined building (not a rarity in Berlin, although ruined buildings here tend to be on the larger side).  On closer inspection you realise that it never was a building, but something part built then semi-demolished to give the impression of a ruined building.  It’s an installation.

You would probably not have walked past the sign as I did.  It says this:

…an ironic dialogue with the surrounding area.  And I do like a spot of architectonic sculpture.  A closer look:

All for now, although worth mentioning that a have a whole backlog of images and stuff that I will get on the blog sooner or later, including lots more arcane buildings from the IBA, for those IBA junkies out there.  Weirdos.

Architectural taste.


A friend pointed this out to me in the Süddeutsche Zeitung the other day; four architecture practices  were asked to come up with designs for a gingerbread house, including a specification (well, recipe) and construction drawings.

This is Berlin-based Graft Architects:

and Sauerbruch Hutton:

with others by Coop Himmelb(l)au, and Allmann Sattler Wappner Architekten, München.


PS – I wrote something slightly rude about Graft a while back, because I couldn’t understand their website, but I forgive anyone anything if there’s cake involved.

Architektur clips


I came across this site recently – a collection of architecture related video clips, mainly Germany based, with quite a few Berlin gems.

Best is this one – a beautifully shot short film about Ostkreuz station, soon to be rebuilt.  The soundtrack, of Berlin’s minimal-click-house grooves, is perfect.

Other Berlin-related goodies include Libeskind’s recent courtyard infill to the Jewish Museum, a New York / Berlin comparison (filmed on the Spree, from my favourite boat) which looks at the upside of Berlin’s bankruptcy, Berlin’s Hungarian Cultural Institute in action and much more.

That’s another day filled then…

Categories : New construction   Oddities