Tag des offenen Denkmals


We’ve already established how bad I am at listing architecture-related events.  But by way of further proof: I failed to mention yesterday’s Lange Nacht der Museen (long night of the museums) or last weekend’s Tag der offenen Tür der Bundesregierung (the ‘Open House’ day for federal government buildings).

So let me put this right by mentioning the forthcoming Tag des offenen Denkmals, on the 13th September.  Literally the ‘day of open monuments’, it covers more than monuments, and more than one day (a great number of the buildings are open on the 12th as well.

Struggle through the typically poor website (this is Germany, so no clues given, such as images for the buildings listed) but if you can pick up the free catalogue around the city, it’s much more readable.  Especially on the bus.

Essentially, the ‘day’ seems to cover just about every building in Berlin of interest that isn’t new – so there are plenty of modern classics in there.  Most have guided tours (although generally in german).

Far too many buildings to mention here, but they include the Haus des Lehrers:

the Bauhaus Archiv, the Hansaviertel, multiple buildings on, and tours of, Karl-Marx-Allee, Scharoun’s Staatsbibliothek, Mendelsohn’s Metallarbeiter building:

…. the Le Corbusier Haus, churches, bunkers, factories, private houses and all of the major, and the recently UNESCO listed modernist estates around the city.

I’m going to have a lie down now, as have become too excited.



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

Zu Hause


The recession doesn’t seem to have greatly slowed the gentrification of the poor-but-central parts of Berlin.  From where I sit, I look across the Landwehrkanal into Reuterkiez, a rapidly trendifying area of new nightlife and newly annoyed neighbours.  Old Ecke bars are closing on a daily basis, and being replaced by the Berlin cliché of bar-galleries, replete with 1970s cast-off furniture and randomly exposed brickwork.

Gentrification is most visible in Berlin where the Wall left a swathe of open spaces, which have gradually been filled in.  Nearly all will be gone within the next five years, I would guess.  Below are a few snaps I took the other evening on my way into Mitte, mainly of the sites being infilled around where the upper part of Dresdener Straaße meets Waldemarstraße (still a blank patch on Google maps at time of writing).  Note the line of the wall, visible as a double line of cobbles across the road, in at least one of these:

Here’s what I thought had happened:  in the early 1990s after the wall came down, a huge amount of capital flowed into Berlin, invested on the assumption that the newly reinstated capital would grow significantly and become a bustling metropolis once again.  The big money went into office construction and such-like (see Potzdamerplatz in particular) but was later followed by lots of smaller investors pouring their Irish and Spanish euros / British pounds into buy-to-let apartment speculation.

Then everyone suddenly remembered that Berlin had no real industry anymore (east german industry had all closed by this point).  The only ‘industry’ to speak of was government, and even then most cicil servants still secretly lived in Bonn and commuted.  Berlin had spent lots of money on its new infrastructure but recouped not much at all through business tax, and is now very broke.

Some days, all the above seems to be true.  The Berlin government certainly is broke, and it seems that a range of terrible, lacklustre designs are waved through by planners on the basis that ‘anything is better than nothing’.  The ongoing development of the Media Spree has ground to a halt.  But no-one seems to have told housebuilders, who are carrying on regardless.  There still appears to be a steady stream of luxury apartments going up, at least at all points east.  Recession-proof Berlin?  Seems unlikely.

So I welcome comments from economists,  investors, planners, architects or builders who can explain this.  Are people moving from west to east because it’s cheaper?  Are people moving back in from surrounding Brandenburg, where they spread out to over the last two decades?  Or is it just my selective perception, where I spot all of the relatively small number of new buildings going up?  Do get in touch if you know the answer.

Along Kochstrasse… part 3


Actually this is not even on Kochstrasse, but continuing east along the road which used to be Oranienstrasse but I think has changed its name, at least at the western end, for the usual historico-political reasons that allow the Berlin senate to believe that they respect Berlin’s recent difficult history while actually being hellbent on the complete erasure of anything that might hint of anything that doesn’t fit with a cosy rightwing conservative heritage-based tourist-driven view of the past, grrr…

[Later note: I was completely wrong about the above, ha, ha.  Well, at least in this particular case.  A couple of years ago, the section of Kochstrasse from Checkpoint Charlie to the point where it becomes Oranienstrasse was changed to Rudi Dutschke Strasse.  Rudi Dutschke, as any fool knows (except me up until now) was the left-wing activist shot by a right-wing assassin in 1968 (he survived the attacke but died some years later from injuries sustained in the shooting).  Ironically, the new Rudi-Dutschke-Straße connects with Axel-Springer-Straße, so called because the offices of the giant Axel Springer publishing group stand at this junction; the same group who were at the time of the shooting were running a Daily Mail-style hate campaign against him.  The Springer group also campaigned against the street name change, unsuccesfully.  So apologies for misinforming you.]

Where was I?  Oh yes, another IBA building.  It’s tucked into the corner of the block which is mainly the vast Bundesdruckerie (it’s just a license to print money, ha, ha).

This is part of  IBA Block 24, and known as the “Alte Feuerwache” (”Old Firestation”) – a centre for young people.  Seems to work, as there were lots of them about when I popped in, doing their young-people related activities.  It’s a partial reconstruction and adaptation of existing buildings, with a sort of big bridge sort thing.

Not immediately obvious from the street – there’s an entrance at Lindenstrasse 40/41, with a cafe.  The work is by Heinz-Jürgen Drews, in association with Architekturbüro Durchbruch and Ing-Gruppe Ökotec (power-heated-energy system) by the way.

My IBA main page here.

Along Kochstrasse… part 2


Continuing a wander down the street…

Dumbly, I hadn’t recognised this building, despite the fact that it has a big sign saying ‘TAZ’ on it. It’s the TAZ building. And it was a part of the IBA, apparently.  It’s a quite un-IBA building though, a bit more British High-tech than the usual postmodernism.  It appears to be entirely made of glass, and for its age (late 80s) I wonder how cold that must be.  I sound like my mother.

Actually, the image shows the extension, the TAZ building includes the older, substantially rebuilt buidling to the right.

Anyway, across the road is another block built as part of the 1987 IBA, by Hans Kammerer, Walter Belz and Klaus Kucher, on the corner at Kochstrasse 59/Charlottenstrasse 83 – part of Block 5, if you need to know.

It’s on the opposite corner from Sauerbruch & Hutton’s very fine GSW building (photo thanks, runningforasthma):

It’s classic IBA, with downplayed street facades, but ‘gives good courtyard’, with its own little world tucked away from the busy main road.  Actually, I say ‘busy main road’ – of course this is Berlin, so it looks like a busy main road, but has the traffic flow of a quiet village.

See what I mean? I particularly like the spirally entrance ramp, which I attempted to cycle up, which left me less-than-impressively jammed against a bend at one point, to the amusement of a resident coming in.

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.