Concrete cubes.

2009.02.28

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.

Interesting Canal Stuff (and IBA Block 647, Part 2)

2009.02.19

I had planned to do a page on the IBA block as part of my ongoing accumulation of IBA buildings (find your niche and stick to it…) but actually the section of the Landwehrkanal which Block 647 faces on to is far too interesting to keep hidden away as a dull reference page.  In fact, the stretch of the canal from Potsdamer Brücke west to Lützowplatz is a virtual history of twentieth century modernism.

(I agree, before you point it out, that these are slightly arbitrary start and finishing points; interesting erections abound here in every direction, but you have to draw a line somewhere).

As a bonus, the marvellous M29 bus route, runs along the north bank going west, and the south bank going east.  (If I mention it often enough, perhaps I’ll get free bus travel?)

Going east along the canal from Lützowplatz, the first thing you see, on the opposite bank, is Walter Gropius’ Bauhaus Archiv:

(thanks to Umschauen for these)

Further along, you come to a little footbridge by Brenner & Tonon, built as part of the IBA:

Next, on the south side, are a row of four IBA townhouse blocks, built to be (at the time) cutting edge eco homes, including a small winter garden to each flat.

No. 2, by Schiedhelm, Klipper & Partner:

No 3, by Pysall, Jensen & Stahrenberg:

Then no.4, by the now mighty practice of von Gerkan, Marg & Partner (they did Berlin’s enormous new Hauptbahnhof)

And lastly no5, which I seem to have lost a main image of, so here’s the door:

It’s not all that, is it?  The door to no. 2 is more interesting, come to think of it:

Anyway, enough of that.  Next, across on the north bank, are the beautifully measured curves of Emil Fahrkamp’s Shell-Haus (now Gasag), 1930-31:

Then there’s James Stirling and Michael Wilford’s extension of the Wissenschafts Zentrum (Science Centre) – glimpses of which below.  This was also an IBA project, by the way.


The north bank then becomes the southern end of the Kulturforum, if that makes sense, with the familiar site of the Mies Neue Nationalgalerie (Umschauen again -  thanks!).

I think I’ve previously mentioned that opposite this, on the south side of the canal, is a rather fine 1929 building by Loeser & Wolff, with a quite cool Foster-ish two storey extension on top.  To quote me: “Its facade is finely proportioned and detailed (as architecture critics would say) and I like it very much.”

As part of the Kulturforum, on the north bank, is Hans Scharoun’s Staatsbibliothek (State Library) – still currently being bothered by much scaffold as well as huge temporary ductwork, so not what you’d call photogenic, but an absolute must to see inside:

(Another piece of thievery from Flickr, that one by jmtp)

And finally, because I promised myself I’d include them at some point, some more IBA blocks, which sit across on the other side of Potsdamer Strasse.  I’m used to IBA blocks looking fairly unspectacular from the street, but often the ‘private’ interior courtyards of the blocks reveal something really special.  Hence my disappointment here; I’m certain these buildings are not without merit, but they didn’t appeal to me on the day when I took these shots last summer. I remember being in a very good mood, and at that time obsessed with the idea of collecting every single IBA building, trainspotter-style.  The idea ended there, they were just that uninspiring. I gave up halfway through, bought a Cornetto, and sat in the canalside park (also an IBA creation).

Georg Heinrichs & Partner:

Corner block by Jürgen Sawade:

and Hilmer & Sattler’s block, with a bit of tree, facing onto the park:

No interior courtyard shots, because as I said, they just didn’t register as anything special.  In fact I’m struggling to think of more to say on them, so will leave it there.

But do take the time to head down to this part of town, using the M29 bus of course.  My free travel pass awaits.


Dies und Das

2009.02.14

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.

2009.02.12

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.