The Fountainhead, Wednesday 23rd January


There are lots of films that are directly or obliquely about architecture, but not many that are actually about architects (I’m not counting here the kind of films where Tom Hanks plays a neatly widowed architect, shorthand for “creative type with higher/stable income” and pursued by Meg Ryan, with unfailingly tedious consequences).

This film is properly about an architect, in the form of modernist architect Howard Roark, played by Gary Cooper.  Based on the book by the borderline bonkers/proto-libertarian Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead is all about one man’s individualistic stand against the forces of commercialism, mainstream taste, clients and, eventually the rule of law itself.  The main character may or may not be loosely based on Frank Lloyd Wright – in any case he was apparently asked to design the buildings featured in the film, but his fees rather exceeded the budget).

The film was pretty much panned on its release in 1949, and maybe comes under ‘interesting’ rather than classic, but I’ve never seen the whole film so am looking forward to finding out.

8pm, admission free. At Hudson’s Cafe, Boppstraße 1 (corner of Schönleinstraße), 10967.

Categories : Film

Book Club, 19th Dec. Jonathan Raban’s Soft City


Recommended by two of our group, Soft City was written in the early 1970s when Raban lived in London, and is “a vivid, often funny portrait of metropolitan life, Soft City is part reportage, part incisive thesis, part intimate autobiography, and a much-quoted classic of the literature of the city and urban culture.”

An interesting (and much later) piece by Raban himself:

Categories : Books   Event

Last minute reminder – Battle of Ideas, Wednesday night, 14th November


I’ve mentioned it in previous post(s), but don’t forget tomorrow night’s ‘Triumph of the City‘ debate, at which I’ll be a panellist.  I know, standards are slipping.

Film Night: Berlin Babylon, Wednesday 5th December.


Am very excited that Hubertus Siegert, director if the 2001 documentary film Berlin Babylon, will be joining us for a screening of his film, with a chance to chat about it afterwards.

The doc follows many of the key architects and other players in the ‘euphoric’ first wave of Berlin’s reconstruction in the late 1990s, including Renzo Piano, the late Günter Behnisch and others as they muse on the business of reconstructing huge areas of the city from scratch.

Plus it’s got a soundtrack composed by Einstürzende Neubauten, which you can’t say about many architecture documentary films. Or indeed most films.

As usual, 7.30pm at Hudson’s Cafe, Schönleinstr 1.  Be punctual, as we want to have some time at the end!

Categories : Event   Film

Archi Book Club, 21st November – The Lure of the City: From Slums to Suburbs


On Wednesday 14th November, I’ll be taking part in a panel discussion entitled “The Triumph of the City?“, a satellite event of  the Battle of Ideas event earlier this month in London.

One of the other panelists, Alistair Donald, is co-editor of a recent book of essays  - The Lure of the City: From Slums to Suburbs, so I propose to do this as our book club book for the following week, by way of a tie-in.

Book club will be at 7.30pm at Hudson’s Cafe, Schönleinstr 1.

Categories : Books   Event

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

Architecture Wednesdays, and other events


Sorry for the couple of reschedulings recently, meetups currently as follows:

Wednesday 24th Oct – architecture book club – Jane Jacobs’ “Death & Life of Great American Cities” (see earlier post, below).

Wednesday 31st Oct – architecture film at Hudson’s, hopefully ‘HouseLife‘ – the film about the house in Bordeaux designed by Koolhaas / OMA – RESCHEDULED  - SEE LATER BLOG POST

Both events at 7.30pm at Hudson’s Cafe, Schönleinstr 1.

Also, I haven’t been yet, but don’t want to miss the TU’s exhibition about the Berlin IBA of the 1987, marking its 25th anniversary - RE-VISION-IBA ’87 _ Themen für die Stadt als Wohnort

Categories : Event   IBA 87

Hardt-Waltherr Hämer, 1922 – 2012


Sad news that Hardt-Waltherr Hämer, the father of ‘careful urban renewal’ (’behutsamen Stadterneuerung’) and director of the Altbau half of the IBA 1987, died on Thursday.

Hämer was a key plyer in the movement against the excesses of modernist planning of the 1960s and 70s, which in Berlin reached its nadir with the redevelopment of Kottbusser Tor in Kreuzberg.  He took the (at the time radical) view that cities could be revived by retaining the existing built fabric and working with local residents to improve their own homes and environment.   This stood firmly against the orthodoxy of the time – the scorched earth policy of urban renewal through large scale demolition and rebuilding, including major new road networks, which was of course much more profitable for investors and contractors than Hämer’s ’slow architecture’ approach.

His much publicised and successful project to put these ideas into practice at Chamissoplatz in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district led to his heading of the Altbau element of the International BauAustellung of the 1980s in West Berlin.  The legacy of his work here was later to be largely ignored during the redevelopment of Berlin following the fall of the Wall, with rabid gentrification, displacement of long-standing communities and the general blandifying of large parts of the city.

Book Club, Wednesday 24th October – Jane Jacobs’ “The Death and Life of Great American Cities”


[Rescheduled from 17th Oct, sorry for any inconvenience]

I propose Jane Jacobs’ “The Death and Life of Great American Cities“, which is one of those books I hear endlessly referred to but have never actually read.

I’m a little nervous that it’s now 50 years old, and may seem on the one hand a little dated, on the other a bit ‘obvious’ (although many of the issues she writes about are clearly still major urban problems. Perhaps this should be the theme of our discussion: have Jacobs’ tirade against modernist planning become a new orthodoxy (or at least the lip-service that planners and architects all have to pay)?

And I think we can add some balance by picking more recent books for future meetings. I’ve been invited to join a panel debate in November, entitled “The Triumph of the City?“, and thought we might consider a book co-written by another of the panelists, Alastair Donald – “The Lure of the City: From Slums to Suburbs“.

As ever, all book suggestions welcome, especially for German or Berlin-based writing on architecture and urbanism that would have broad appeal (and isn’t just about the war…). Possible future book suggestions: Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, Colin Rowe’s Collage Cities, and more.

7.30 pm at Hudson’s Cafe, Schönleinstr 1.

Categories : Books   Event

Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, Wednesday 19th Sept, 7.30pm


So, finally getting things moving with our first archi film night, this coming Wednesday.  Free entry, imported British beers, cake and more.

As usual, at Hudson’s, Boppstrasse 1, nearest U-Bahn Schönleinstraße.

Although I’m planning some ‘pure architecture’ films, including Rem’s Houselife, and Berlin Babylon, they’ll be mixed with movies that ’swim in an architectural sea’. Terry Gilliam’s Brazil is one such: a film from the days before CGI (but all the better for it) – a kind of darkly comic take on Orwell’s 1984, sharing at least one film location (Battersea power station) with the ’straight’ version of 1984 that came out the previous year. Yet Brazil is by far the better of the two films.

Gilliam has a madly architectonic eye, with virtually every scene a reference or in-joke about a particular building or failed utopian plan. It’s also a distopia where nothing mechanical or electronic ever works properly, a state of affairs with which I have much sympathy (and possibly the only film whose villains including heating and plumbing engineers?).

Anyway, it’s a great cast and an endlessly inventive film, that should be enjoyable even if you’re not a nerd like me.