Koolhaas – HouseLife


Have decided to do this on Tuesday (30th October), to avoid a Wednesday clash with Halloween, but also with an event at the AdK.  So a chance to see HouseLife, the documentary about the Rem Koolhaas-designed private house in the south of France.

Unlike most archi docs, HouseLife follows a week in the life of a starchitect design through the eyes of its cleaning lady, as well as a number of other people tasked with cleaning its inaccessible glazing and attempting to fix the never-ending leaks.

As usual, 7.30pm at Hudson’s Cafe, Schönleinstr 1.

Categories : Event   Film   Rem Koolhaas / OMA

IBA mini-tour, Saturday 29th May


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



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.

Dutch Embassy visit


Thanks to everyone who made it along to the Dutch Embassy yesterday, apologies once again that it had to be a weekday, rather limiting it to people with flexible jobs.

A shame that photography is no longer allowed, and that we had to be followed around by a grumpy security man, but hey.  I managed to take some images when I went last year, and the external parts of the building are pretty easily accessible for that souvenir shot.

Tours as a group or as an individual are pretty easy to arrange, by contacting bln-receptie (at) minbuza.nl.  They need your name, date of birth and passport / ID card number.  Remember to bring your passport/ID card along with you, as if you forget it, you’ll have to try and persuade the grumpy security guard that your driver’s license is sufficient ID, while the group that you’ve arrived with chuckle at your own lack of organisation. Er, I imagine.

My ancient post, plus Flickr images.

A picture of that pot plant, for Katja, as I know she loves ‘em:

Dutch Embassy visit next week


Very short notice, but if you fancy a guided tour of Rem Koolhaas’ Dutch Embassy next Wednesday at 1pm, I need to send them a list of who’s coming by late afternoon tomorrow (Friday 5th Feb).

For each person, I need name, date of birth and a passport or ID card number.


Well worth a visit.  If you want to go along some other time, you can email them direct at bln-receptie(at)minbuza.nl.

Along Kochstrasse… part 1


I know, I know…  I haven’t blogged for ages.  Excuses?  Loads, including the fact that I’ve been writing some actual paid-for writing, which I’ll mention again (when October’s edition of Blueprint magazine come out).   And I’ve been in London, where I’m always instantly thrown by all the traffic and people, and remain in shock for about a week on my return to lovely calm, quiet Berlin.

Anyway, what better way to return to blogging with some ever-untopical IBA buildings.  Some of which I’ve written about before, but I was just passing these on the way along Kochstrasse*, coming back from the Modell Bauhaus exhibition at the Gropius Bau (previously recommended).  So a bit of a ramble.

*at least one end of which has recently been renamed, confusingly, but I can’t remember what to.

A few months back I found myself sitting next to David Mackay, of MBM architects (a friend was designing his autobiography).  He was saying that the design of one of his  Kochstrasse buildings – this one in fact:

…was turned 90 degrees at a late stage, so that if need be, allied tanks could bypass Checkpoint Charlie and head up an alleyway between his building and Rem’s next door.  Not sure how this would have worked; it seems terribly narrow. And tanks are quite wide.

While I was musing on this, I took some photies of the back of the Koolhaas/OMA building.  I like the backs of buildings.  Especially the place they keep the bins – it sometimes tells you more about the architecture than looking at the front/insides does.  It’s an early one for Mr Koolhaas, but has some tell-tale details:

Note the sloping transome bar, obscured by some cabinets:

Will do the rest of this in parts, so that I can seperately tag them, as I’m anally retentive like that.  Back shortly.

Dutch Embassy, Berlin, by Rem Koolhaas/OMA


You’d be forgiven for thinking that I only like writing about arcane housing projects from the eighties.  I do, but I occasionally cast my gaze elsewhere.  By way of proof, I finally got round to visiting the Dutch Embassy the other week, and here are some photos of it, although it was a bit of a grey wet day and I couldn’t be bothered to cross the river to get a better long shot.

Some architecture critics seem to be turning against Koolhaas and his progeny; one that I read recently described the Dutch embassy as, in essence, a ‘first year student project’.  (Interesting how ‘first year student project’ is a popular term of criticism these days – see recent comment on my Am Kupfergraben 10 / David Chipperfield post).  Anyway, I’m not very good at ‘reviewing’ buildings – I think it’s hard to make a definitive judgement on a building when it’s still ’settling in’ to the landscape, but it succeeds well in its function here I think, or at least in projecting an image of the Dutch how I’m guessing they like to be perceived – slightly bonkers, but cool.

The embassy is very much a performance, a visual onslaught of slanting shapes, contrasting textures and theatrical lighting effects.  In fact Berlin architecture over the last eighty years has a strong tradition of theatrical lighting effects, from Hans Poelzig to, er, Albert Speer, and beyond.  That ‘Droog’ look of chandeliers and concrete is about to go out of fashion I suspect, so it will be interesting to see how the building feels in a few years time, when it’s no longer considered cutting edge.

In contrast to Rem’s slightly newer Casa del Musica in Porto, (I mention this ‘cos I was there a few days later) the embassy has less of the ‘just landed alien’ about it, and fits into the surrounding context, at least in terms of height and massing.  Koolhaas apparently aimed to turn the traditional Berlin model of a block with internal courtyard inside-out, resulting in a rather strange arrangement;  the main building is separated from the west and north sides by a kind of free-standing defensive wall, containing services and the ambassador’s quarters (actually, his number two) connected by a tier of footbridges.

The main building is essentially a ramp spiralling upwards through eleven staggered floor levels.  This may be a ‘first year student idea’, but it’s carried out with panache, and without feeling like you’ve come very far, you’re suddenly on the top floor.

If you want to visit, free guided tours are available, by contacting bln-receptie (at) minbuza.nl. You need to give at least four working days notice, as well as your full name, nationality and passport number for each visitor, plus a contact number for the group.  It’s at Klosterstraße 50, 10179 Berlin.

Anyway, some images.  Don’t mind anyone using these, by the way, but would be grateful if you could credit me and/or put a link.  I’ve come across a few elsewhere recently.  Surprising as my photography is pretty amateur…

A strategically placed plant avoids people banging their heads as the floor/ceiling height unexpectedly reduces:

Some fellow visitors are shown the opening in the outer wall through which you could see the top of the TV tower.  If it wasn’t raining.

A sofa in reception, which I think is by Future Systems

Model – note the separate ‘outer wall’.

More images on our Flickr.