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.



Is it premature to rejoice at the end of Winter?  Probably.  But today the melting continued on the streets, revealing in archaeological detail layers of fag butts, dog’s poo and general grime.  The bottom layer is comprised almost entirely of spent fireworks from New Year’s safety-free celebrations.

The Landwehrkanal is yet to completely unfreeze, but I notice there are no longer people on it, skating, walking or otherwise.  Maybe the ones who tried over the last few days are now under the ice?

All of which reminded me that there was a time before Berlin was covered in snow and ice (this is a very weak ploy, by the way, to link in to the images below, taken late last year on a Tag des Offenen Denkmals, plus a couple from the Summer).  I was routing through my hard drive and realised that I never did actually put the photos up, or blog about them.  They’re of the Haus des Lehrers and the adjoining Kongresshalle in Alexanderplatz, both designed by Hermann Henselmann, the chameleon architect of the GDR (he also designed large parts of Karl-Marx-Allee, which is very different from the Haus des Lehrers.  The socialist realist mural, which runs in a continuous band on all four sides of the tower, is by Walter Womacka, an artist who’s still around and productive.

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).