The IBA 1987, Altbau


This post won’t make much sense on its own, as it’s about a specific part of the Internationale Bauaustellung (IBA) Berlin 1987, an explanation of which is here.

Increasingly, I’m finding myself more interested in the Altbau element of the programme than the Neubau. the latter being the part of the IBA which is more like a traditional building Expo (iconic new buildings), the former being something a little different.  The theme of the Altbau programme was essentially the rescue of the severely rundown Kreuzberg borough of (then) West Berlin, achieved by refurbishing, and adding to, existing buildings in Berlin’s 19th century grid.  The project was huge, and provided new and renovated housing, self-build projects, schools, kindergartens, landscaping, streetscaping and parks.

Much of the architecture is unspectacular, some of it difficult to access, and many of the new building elements terribly unfashionable in terms of today’s neo-modernist orthodoxy (oops, getting a bit opinionated here).  But this element of the IBA was an important break with the urban planning policies that immediately preceded it; demonstrated very visibly if you compare the urban scorched-earth planning policy and tax evasion plans that created Kreuzberg’s Kottbusser Tor, with the nearby IBA-resuscitated areas.

I’ve written quite a few posts and pages on the Altbau projects, all of which should be linked to in the right hand column of this site. (There seems to be a fault with a coupl of the headers, which link you through to irrelevant pages, so ignore these!).  But a couple picked out at random, as I had the image links to hand:

Hinrich & Inker Baller’s new buildings and block refurbishment on Fraenkelufer, as part of Block 70:

Rave & Rave’s rather unloved Block 88 just along the canal to the east:

and one of my favourites, an ingenious interweaving of new elements of a school into an existing block structure, by Werkfabrik architects in Block 101:

Hochhaus an der Weberwiese, Karl-Marx-Allee


Advice for exploring Berlin’s less well known architecture: always have a look round the back.

A good case in point is Hermann Henselmann’s ‘Hochhaus an der Weberwiese’ (tower block on Weberwiese), the prototype design for the rest of Karl-Marx-Allee.  It isn’t actually on the Allee at all – it’s sort of tucked away here, round the back. (Do you remember a time before Google maps? I presume we just got lost.)

Anyway, the design, built 1951-1952, comprises a ten storey tower connected to a low rise block. It’s obviously of a piece with the bombastic Stalinist wedding cake style that dominates ‘the Allee’, with neoclassical details created with ceramic tiling and a strident symmetrical street elevation.

But oddly, the massing of the building – high rise block with low rise adjoining block offset from the axis – echoes early modernism. Interesting, as Henselmann supposedly regretted his chameleon-like changing of styles to suit his political masters, and later returned to work such as the Haus des Lehrers / Kongresshalle down the road at Alexanderplatz. Which I like very much, and come to think of it, is also a tower linked to a low rise structure.

The other thing you notice about the setting of the Hochhaus is that it feels entirely unlike Karl-Marx-Allee, even though it’s so close. It stands on the edge of a small park, across from the back of the buildings facing onto the Allee’s six lanes of traffic, and feels like another place and time entirely. Almost like London’s Bloomsbury in fact, with Henselmann’s design having an oddly 1930s art deco feel to it, despite some of the detailing.

The location is also interesting for allowing a view of the different ages of Karl-Marx-Allee in one spot. Across the park, screening off the road, is one of Ludmilla Herzenstein’s blocks. Built in 1949-1950, it is extremely plain (in a good way), and has more in common with Berlin’s pre-war modernist estates.

Next comes Henselmann’s block, as the precursor to the other blocks on the main street, by Henselmann and others.

Finally, there’s a new block reaching completion, an inoffensive piece of commercial late modernism, but not unpleasant (I seem to be damning with faint praise here, and sounding a bit too much like Niklaus Pevsner).

And, of course, no 1950s east Berlin neighbourhood would be complete without some socialist realist art.

Mediaspree gesunken. Sort of.


Just a quick follow up to my ‘Spreeufer fur alle’ rant the other day, to mention that the result was a landslide against office development and in favour of retained and improved access to the river.

Lots about in the German language press, but a brief summary in english here.

Cynics will note that the vote has no legal standing, but hey, it’s a vote from the heart against the world of international business travellers checking into bland hotels, to a neverending soundtrack of Elton John/Celine Dion/Bon Jovi bellowing out across the river from the O2.

Off to the beach now to party like it’s 1989.

The IBA 1987, Neubau


So here’s my plan. I’ve so far taken a slightly haphazard approach to logging IBA projects (see original IBA post here), but have now begun the legwork of getting as many books as I could carry from the Berlin TU library and collating a sort of rough database.

‘Why bother at all?’ you might ask. Simply because

a) when I was looking for this information on the web, it wasn’t there, and

b) I’m a nerd, and us nerds are only ever happy when we have a vast list-based project to be getting on with.

The list will have little on it to begin with, but do email me, jim_hudson33 (at), if you’re looking for specific material – I’m probably planning to go there with a camera if I haven’t already…

I’ve also started a Flickr group here, should anyone want to add images.

By way of overview, the International Bauaustelling (IBA) 1987 was divided into Neubau (new building) under Josef Paul Kleihues and Altbau (yes, old building) under Hardt-Waltherr Hämer. The nomenclature is not strict however; ‘Altbau’ projects, mainly in the eastern Kreuzberg district known as SO36, have many elements of newbuild, but usually integrated into existing street blocks. ‘Neubau’ generally applies to the larger scale freestanding construction. The Neubau projects were in four geographical areas; Southern Tiergarten/South Friedrichstadt (the vast majority), Prager Platz, and Tegel Harbour. I’ve listed the projects firstly by their ‘Block number’, which I assume was an allocation system of the IBA’s.

The list below is now a ‘flavour’, with a few links to the full post where relevant.  If you look down the right hand links column of this site, there should be an up-to-date list of everything I’ve done on the subject. It seemed worth putting up, as it’s become a bit of a theme of the blog (some say a nerdy obsession, but hey, we all need a hobby).

Block 1, between Kothener strasse, Bernberger Strasse and Dessauer Strasse. Perhaps its most notable building is O M Ungers contribution.

The block also includes designs by Hans C Müller and Moritz Müller, also on Dessauer Strasse.

Block 2, on Dessauer Srasse 34-40, Stresemannstrasse 105-109, Bernberger Strasse 6-9. Most notable for Zaha Hadid’s residential building on Dessauer Strasse.

Block 3, on Wilhelmstrasse. This is actually the ‘Topography of Terror‘ site, and must have become part of the IBA simply because its design competition was concurrent. The competition scheme in question was not the current one, or even its aborted-during-construction Peter Zumthor predecessor, but a ‘grid of trees’ design by Wenzel, Lang.

Block 4, bounded by Kochstrasse, Wilhelmstrasse, Zimmerstrasse and Friedrichstrasse. It includes Rem Koolhaas/OMA’s block on Friedrichstrasse and, in my opinion, the most impressive enclosed courtyard of the Neubau, with planning and several buildings by by Catalan architects MBM.  I met David Mackay (the second ‘M’ in MBM a while back, who told me some interesting things about his IBA project here, to do with Allied tanks.

Block 5 – a corner block on Kochstrasse 59 / Charlottenstrasse 83, by Hans Kammerer and Walter Kucher.

Block 6, bounded by Dessauer Strasse and Bernberger Strasse. Notable because of its unusual biological water waste disposal system.

Block 9, on Wilhelmstrasse, notable for two quite prominent residential towers.  Don’t get too excited though.  They’re not that impressive really.  (Actually, have just looked again while updating this page, and actually they seem more interesting now, will have to take a second look).

Block 10 – Kochstrasse 1-5, Wilhemstrasse 39.  Includes the prominent corner block by Aldo Rossi, with Jay Johnson, Gianni Braghieri, Christpher Stead.  I don’t seem to have posted on this, just an image on my general IBA 87 post, so here it is again:

Block 11 – Charlottenstrasse 96-98, by John Hejduk.  A tower and two separate wings, oft photographed as one of Berlin’s oddities.

Block 24, including the “Alte Feuerwache” (”Old Firestation”) – a complex of buildings including a youth centre.  By Heinz-Jürgen Drews, in association with Architekturbüro Durchbruch and Ing-Gruppe Ökotec (power-heated-energy system).

Blocks 28 & 31, known as ‘Ritterstrasse North’.  Planned by, and including buildings by, Rob Krier.  Post here, in which I may have confused things by indicating that ‘Ritterstrasse South’ is something separate from Block 33 (see below).  Am now not sure, but it doesn’t really matter – have a wander round the whole area, as it’s interesting, and also you could make a field trip of the whole area, taking in the Jewish Museum itself, as well as Hermann Hertzberger’s Block 30 on the other side of Lindenstrasse, and Erich Mendelsohn’s I G Metall (Metalworkers union building) to the south.

Block 33  – Residential Park ‘Am Berlin Museum’.  This is the southern end of a complex next to the Jewish Museum, between Lindenstrasse (15-19) and Alte Jakobstrasse (129-136).

Block 189 – Known as ‘Rauchstrasse’, bounded by Thomas-Dehler-Strasse, Drakestrasse, Stulerstrsse and Rauchstrasse. Masterplan of whole block by Rob Krier.

  • Thomas Dehler Str. 47, Aldo Rossi
  • Thomas Dehler Str. 46, Henry Nielebock & Partner
  • Thomas Dehler Str. 44, Giorgio Grassi
  • Thomas Dehler Str. 39 / Rauchstrasse 14, Rob Krier (this is the ‘master block’, facing onto Stulerstr)
  • Rauchstrasse 6, Hubert Herrmann
  • Rauchstrasse 8, Hans Hollein
  • Rauchstrasse 10, Rob Krier
  • Rauchstraase 11 – Refurbishmnent of the old Norweigen Embassy, architects: Freie Planungsgruppe Berlin GmbH / R.Weichmayr
  • Landscape architecture, Cornelia Muller, Jan Wehberg, Elmar Knippschild

Block 192 – Rauchstrasse 21 and Corneliusstrasse 11/12 A less written-about IBA project comprising three ‘eco-houses’, by teams led by Frei Otto. Essentially open concrete frames where elements could be added, including gardens, at different floor levels.  At least this was the design idea in the catalogue at the time – the realised buildings appear more substantial. Some related material here.

Blocks 197 & 198 – The Japanese & Italian Embassies During the Cold War years, the Embassy district lay largely abandoned, falling as it did in West Berlin, which was no longer the capital city.  The Italian Embassy was reworked as a cultural centre by Paolo Portoghesi.  Nowadays of course, it’s the Italian Embassy again.

Block 204 – the ‘Wissenschaftszentrum’ (Science centre) by James Stirling and Michael Wilford The project greatly extended an existing building on Reichpietschufer.

Block 220 – on the western side of Lützowplatz, by O M Ungers. Take a good look, because shamefully, it’s in the process of being demolished, for no sound reason I can see. Post blog note: as at July 2009, the front block (pictured) remains, only the rear blocks demolished.

Blocks 227 & 228 – Housing “Am Karlsbad”, Potsdamer Strasse 41-49, Bissingzeile 1-3, Am Karlsbad 1.  By Jürgen Sawade, Hilmer & Sattler, and others.  These buildings don’t do much for me, to be honest, and I’ve whinged about them in a post here.  It’s the bit at the end.

Block 234 – a huge area with one side facing onto Lützowplatz. This includes a corner building on Lützowplatz by Mario Botta, with some flats by Peter Cook & Christine Hawley (he of Archigram fame) next door.  Lots to see, including Max & Karl Dudler’s rather fabulous electricity transformer station at Lützowstrasse 18.

(thanks to IsarSteve from whom I’ve linked a Flickr image here).

Block 608 – Family Court Building by O.M. Ungers, Hallesches Ufer 66-62.

Block 622 – The Jewish Museum.  Not sure to what extent the IBA claimed this as under its jurisdiction, as not relly a part of the programme as such, and is an extension of what was originally the Berlin Museum.

Block 647 – on the north side of Lützowstrasse from Block 234.  Includes an interesting child daycare centre and apartments and individual houses arranged in a rare (for Berlin) mews plan.

Tegeler Hafen – There was also a fairly major development out at Tegel, built around the harbour, which I’ve blogged about in the snow.

Spreeufer für Alle!


Kreuzberg is changing again.

Thirty years ago, the area was a dead-end zone along the western side the Berlin wall, slated for large-scale demolition to make way for an inexplicable new motorway plan. Its blocks were in a semi-ruinous state, occupied only by squatters and those too poor to move elsewhere.

In the 1980s the IBA intervention halted this decline and rejuvenated communities, rebuilding blocks and interweaving new schools and amenities into their cores. Of course, the ironic but inevitable long term result was that people like me (middle class people) decided it was the place to move to (”it’s so vibrant darling, so fashionably down at heel…”).

So as a person undermining the established local community, it would be totally hypocritical of me to criticise the next wave of invaders. But here goes…

Around the corner from me is a building still under construction called ‘Carloft’, the idea being that you can keep your car in your apartment with you. This involves giving a lot of floorspace over to carlift machinery, but the flats look pretty big to begin with.

Most existing Kreuzberg residents don’t have cars, and when they do, I’m not sure they’d feel the need to spend a fortune on keeping them in their apartments. But maybe ‘apartment-car’ people are the future.

Website here, if you fancy one (an apartment, not a car).

Anyway, onwards to the point.

This weekend (13th July), a local referendum will ask residents of east Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain whether they support or oppose the MediaSpree; the expansion of the media/office zone along the banks of the river Spree to the east of the centre. There was a protest march today (one thing you can rely on in Berlin is that protests will have really good sound systems) which appropriately passed by Alvaro Siza’s Bonjour Tristesse block. (The banner hanging from the window reads as my header.)

The referendum choices are complex, but seem to boil down to a vote against further large scale development on the banks of the Spree, or continued development with some cycle paths and walking routes.

Some links: (the ‘no’ camp) (the development proposals)

I feel for Berlin’s government here; it has aspirations to be something other than ‘poor but sexy’ (in the words of our mayor) and I guess that the Mediaspree plans are one way this will happen. But whichever way the vote goes, I can’t see eastern Berlin’s world of party beaches and squats lasting indefinitely. It will be a great loss, even if they’re able to move on elsewhere. A still greater loss would be if the long standing communities north and south of the Spree were also forced to migrate.