For ages now I’ve really wanted to look more closely at some of the buildings I blog about, rather than just a few snaps and some jokey comments. So here’s the first of them.
Regular readers will be unsurprised to hear that it’s a project which was a part of the 1987 International Bauaustellung (IBA). It fell under the ‘Altbau/Careful Urban Renewal’ half of the programme, i.e. projects which worked with local communities and user groups to expand and improve existing buildings and facilities; intervention rather than freestanding architecture.
The Heinrich Zille school occupies the core parts of Block 101, the block immediately to the west of Lausitzer Platz, Kreuzberg, bounded by Skalitzer-, Manteuffel- and Waldemarstrasse. It intrigued me, because so little can be seen from the street – just a few tantalising glimpses of odd shaped buildings locking ingeniously into older structures. The site is complex – buildings from the pre-existing school were integrated into a new plan, to include a child daycare centre. Multiple architects were involved at the time, and the waters are further muddied by the fact that the daycare centre has been removed and additional school buildings added over the proceeding years.
View from Lausitzer Platz:
But I’ve been really lucky here. The original architect, Margarete Winkes of Werkfabrik, agreed to meet me and walk around the building (she’d left a comment on the blog pointing out that when I first mentioned the school – I’d listed the architects incorrectly).
I’d spent some time beforehand trying to work out which architects designed which parts of the complex site, but the first thing Frau Winkes emphasized was that trying to describe the whole thing in formal contractual terms, ‘who did what and exactly where’, was to miss the point. IBA Altbau gave local groups, architects and others the chance to experiment. The IBA organisation had no brief or programme for the design. Instead, this was negotiated over the period of a year, between the school, four architects’ practices, and other stakeholders, all working collaboratively to come up with a single solution.
At first, the project manager in me (I used to be one) wanted to shout “But how did this possibly work? What about cost control?” But these projects, while not free of budget limits, were at least free of the thinking that has eventually became the dead hand of ‘Value Engineering’, and are perhaps all the better for it. I’m not sure that such a level of invention and genuine stakeholder involvement would be at all possible now.
The project outlived the IBA, which at the end of the 1980s transformed itself into S.T.E.R.N., the private body which took over the IBA Altbau’s legacy and oversaw completion of many of the ongoing schemes, albeit with a much reduced budget. It’s interesting that, according to Frau Winkes, there was little contact between the Neubau and Altbau IBAs; they were two almost unrelated programmes, with very differing aims. I’ve often heard them referred to as the ‘rich and poor IBAs’, mainly by those who worked on the Altbau programme such as Alvaro Siza.
As noted above, Frau Winkes emphasized that, as with many IBA Altbau projects, the aim was not to produce Architecture with a capital ‘A’, but to create working facilities for local groups and institutions, which in Kreuzberg by the 1980s were in a state of advanced urban decay, where poverty, high levels of squatting and social disadvantage had become a political embarressment for West Berlin.
Having been told that ‘it’s not about the architecture’, we proceeded to walk around the school, and I found Werkfabrik’s designs both impressive and – a term not often used in architectural criticism – full of charm. I was reminded of some of the late Ralph Erskine’s work, famous for his inclusion of residents and building users in the design process to produce a quirky non-standard architecture.
A note here: this summer the school has been undergoing external renovation works, which are still ongoing at the time of writing. The outside of the key buildings were scaffolded, and as it was an informal visit, we couldn’t access all the interior rooms. I’ve included some shots here to give a flavour (with more here) but will be going back to do a proper session soon.
Frau Winkes pointed out that the ongoing works had made some significant changes to some of the exerior detailing – compare these two images for instance:
This led to discussion about the legality of such changes. In Germany (as I understand it) legal copyright rests in the first instance with the architect, who should be consulted on such changes – a very different position to the UK. I’m no expert in this area, so will say no more on the subject, as so far this blog has remained free of legal action. But perhaps a later post on this theme – it’s an interesting and important one – with the case of Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof being the most notable.
Werkfabrik were, at the time, the youngest of the architectural practices involved in the project, and felt they were working more in the spirit of the IBA and experimentation than their more conservative colleagues. I’m under the impression that Werkfabrik led the design process, although can’t confirm the contractual positions. The listing in the IBA 1987 Project Report is complicated, and I’m guessing further confused by translation (the terms ‘planning’ and ‘design’ seem interchangeable) so for completeness I will quote in full:
School: preliminary report Burtin/Schulz, co-operative planning procedure (Archiplan, Burtin/Schulz, Werkfabrik); work on planning documents: Werkfabrik; educational plan for the neighbourhood school: Zimmer.
Child day-care centre: preliminary design – Werkfabrik.
In any event, Frau Winkes/Werkfabrik were clearly responsible for the design of the elements of the school which we looked at. There were an amazing twenty detailed drafts of the design before the final scheme, done over the period of a year. The construction process ran on into the 1990s, and “became horrible” after the demise of the IBA (I take it from this that S.T.E.R.N. were much less involved). Despite strained relations with the school in the later phase of the work, Frau Winkes felt that Werkfabrik got their way with the design as finally built, and this rings true when you see some of the detailing and the carefully thought through interior spaces.
Some major elements of the original design, including a large hall between the firewalls of the existing buildings, along with ambitious plans to place the gym underneath one of the old retained buildings (by architect Ludwig Hoffmann, apparently) failed to make the final cut. But these issues were evidently due more to budget restraints and technical issues than objections from other involved parties, and the end solution worked well for the teaching staff.
And the final result achieved the real aim: to promote the spaces and interstices around the buildings, to improve the overall ‘urbanity’ of such places without creating expensive ’show architecture’.
We chatted more generally about the legacy of the IBA, and about my pet theory that ironically, the IBA’s role in helping to rescue run-down Kreuzberg sowed the seeds of the gentrification now pushing its original beneficiaries out of the area. Frau Winkes felt there was some truth in this, but also felt that the IBA saved communities and anchored residents to an area which would otherwise have been decimated by the planned motorway, and by more development such as that at nearby Kottbusser Tor.
Werkfabrik did one other building as part of the IBA; a creche at nearby Oppelner Strasse 21/22, although they tell me that this has since been heavily altered and there is little to see of their original scheme.
Huge thanks to Margarete Winkes and her partner, and also to Helen Ferguson, for her invaluable translation work!
Some more images, as I know you like them. Like I say, will be back to do this properly soon, plus have a few more here.
Students’ storage and toilets provided for each classroom (with the structure suspended from above to minimise load on the floor)
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.
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.
Seems like Summer’s arrived in Berlin, thus dispensing with the awkward middleman of Spring altogether. It probably won’t last, but after months of low grey sky, everyone’s gone a bit mad with the joys of premature summer. Walk into our local park (it’s Gorlitzer, admittedly) and it feels like the third day of a music festival. But with much more rubbish.
I mainly mention all this because the images I’ve been collecting in the last few weeks were all taken while it was still uniformly bedeckt, and I just wanted you to know, if you’re not here in Berlin, how beautiful the city looks on this glorious sunny easter weekend. This explains the seemingly irrelevant* image below, depicting some people playing boules on the canal just down from us the other evening:
*Not entirely irrelevant actually, as the boules courts, and the whole of the landscaping of the north bank, were part of the IBA Altbau programme – a wholly overlooked part in fact.
Anyway, on with the archistuff.
Just down the Landwehrkanal from the scene above, is a block of housing which I’ve often mentioned – it’s the one which was replanned and partly rebuilt by Hinrich & Inker Baller, and features regularly in things you read about the IBA 1984/1987. You know, it’s this one:
Anyway, what’s less often mentioned (and rarely photographed) is the rest of the block – collectively known in IBA nomenclature as ‘Block 70′. The curvy Baller designs form three apparently separate buildings in the terrace facing onto the canal, and a larger rear block, which is only accessible via the large landscaped courtyard within.
Yet the whole IBA-defined ‘block’ is much larger than this. Although much of it comprises reworkings of existing 19th century buildings, it’s of great interest to me, partly because
a) it’s a perfect example of the complex interweaving of old and new to create communities within a dense, fascinating mix of urban typologies
but mainly because
b) it includes a good pub, which runs a decent pub quiz on thursday nights.
As I wobble back home on my bike from the above mentioned institution, I’m aften given to musing on the nature of planning, modernism and postmodernism. It’s mainly the Guinness talking, but the immediate locality is like a planning lecturer’s dream; directly to the north of Block 70 stand the monolithic 1970s concrete towers of Kottbusser Tor – essentially west Berlin’s attempt to match some of the East’s most visually unappealing Plattenbau estates with one of its own, but without the social infrastructure. Nowhere else in Berlin, and possibly nowhere in most western cities, can you so clearly the excesses of brutalist ‘We Are The Planners, You Are The Planned’-type urban thinking, standing so close to its successor and antidote.
I should add that in strict architectural terms, I use the term ‘brutalist’ wrongly. I love Denys Lasdun’s National Theatre as much as the next man (assuming that the next man is a member of the Twentieth Century Society), and I’m also not one of those people who believes in the power of architecture to solve deep-seated social and economic problems. But sometimes bad architecture can just, well, get you down.
The 1980s IBA did what it could in and around these structures (including turning a multistorey carpark into a community centre, complete with roof garden (see the sort of ‘I’ shape in the green square to the bottom left of the image above). But the housing blocks continue to be the local authority’s number 1 choice for housing its poorest residents. ‘Kottie’ is notorious as a location for dealers, and although I don’t feel unsafe walking through it (I’m from southeast London) it’s not a place I’d want to live given a choice. Apparently, and perhaps unsurprisingly, the whole monolithic ‘Kreuzberg Centre’ project was planned as a tax-saving write-off.
Kottbusser images, by the way, from the site www.sozialestadt.de, a project aiming to reintegrate socially deprived areas of inner city Berlin. The page I’ve linked to gives a good overview of what went wrong; a microcosm of bad 60s and 70s planning, complete with the blight of a planned-for-but-later-abandoned motorway project. Add to this the peculiar geographical side-effects of a divided Berlin – this part of Kreuzberg was a peculiar dead-end peninsular surrounded on three sides by the wall. Then of course the wall came down and changed… well, not everything.
Still not sure how to import Google maps, but if you look here, you can see Block 70 bounded by Fraenkelufer to the south and Kohlfurter Strasse to the north, with buildings gradullay rising in scale and ugliness immediately to the north of Kohlfurter Strasse, reaching their peak (if that’s the right word) at Kottbusser Tor itself.
Amazing then that such a contrast exists, like some rift in time between decades. On the south side of Kohlfuter Strasse is my favourite building – as ever images here don’t do it justice. It looks at its best at night, when you see that the original 19th century block has had its end wall opened up to create lighter, more open apartments, and making best use of the roof level with a greenhouse structure – both popular ‘tricks’ of the IBA Altbau programme.
Fragments of lost buildings are glimpsed in gardens; an antidote to the scorched earth policy of postwar planning up till that point:
Meanwhile, across the road, the 1970s:
Anyway, back at Block 70, arguably the best bits are those facing onto Erkelenzdamm. Interestingly, these used to face onto another waterway – the Luisenstadt canal – filled in before the first world war I think, but whose route is still clearly visible (if you look at the map again, you can see how it ran north from the Landwehrkanal (east west), through Wassertorplatz (clue’s in the name) up to Michaelkirchplatz (a basin still filled with water) then turned 90 degrees east to curve round and up to the Spree. Basically, just follow the streets ending in ‘damm’. Perhaps I’ll start a campaign to reopen it, just after I’ve bought a flat in a prominent overlooking position. A view of water adds soooo much to property prices you know darling…
Might have to lengthen the Ballers’ cute little bridge though:
More of the original buildings facing onto Erkelenzdamm below. This one has a certain faded beauty about it in my opinion. Pub just off to the right, out of shot :
When you look closely, you notice that there’s interesting things going on at roof level. In fact, nearly all of the buildings within the block are linked high up by communal routes and spaces.
About a year ago a new block arrived to fill in a gap in the curved terrace of buildings, by architect Barbara Brakenhoff. I quite like it, and I’m also quite jealous. Essentially, it’s a residential community built by and for women, living singly or attached, but aimed at attracting women of all ages, and including fully accessible design for its older residents. And a communal roof garden, damn them. I’m a boy, so not worth putting my name down, obviously.
The project is a specific, women-orientated example of a german/Berlin trend for community building that’s sadly lacking in the UK. Also a good example of how you can only make a good building with a good client, in this case an organisation formed by the people who will live in the building and have obviously placed some value on design. I’m worried here that I’m sounding a bit like someone from one of those endless British design/urban/housing/planning/placemaking/benchmarking/taskforce-proposing organisations, but it’s true.
Off to sit in the sun now, so next post will probably be just wittering on about parks and stuff…
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.
Readers of a nervous disposition should look away now; there’s about to be more 1980s postmodernism.
As promised, a post with some images of housing at Tegel, with a selection of buildings forming part of the IBA 1984/1987. These are a long way from the regeneration-needy areas of Kreuzberg in southern Berlin where most of the IBA projects lie; Tegel is a much wealthier spot, and these blocks are set on the harbour opening out into the lake. In this part of the IBA the accent was perhaps more show home than urban regeneration.
The final stage of the original masterplan – buildings on the harbour island – remained on paper. My IBA source book indicates this was to be an Arts, Education and Leisure complex, although there is now new housing going up instead. The Humboldt library building immediately to the east was built though, as well as Gustav Peichl’s phosphate elimination plant across the road. I didn’t get that far mind you, as I was freezing my knackers off, frankly.
Dated po-mo? You bet. But strangely… well, you decide.
I was just struck, by the way, by how ‘American Gothic’ the pair of John Hejduk houses look (see the couple of images at the end).
By the way, it’s generally thought that the best architecture photos are those taken in bright summer sunshine. These were taken at freezing dusk in the middle of winter. It gives them a melancholy air though, don’t you think? And as an added bonus, the landscaping of much of the site reminded me of the snow-bound topiary in Kubrick’s The Shining. Oh dear.
A much fuller set of images as usual over at Flickr.
Firstly, the mid-rise ‘courtyard’ blocks by Moore, Ruble, Yudell:
The Humboldt Library at Tegel, also by Moore, Ruble, Yudell (same architects who just finished the new American Embassy in Berlin, to much thunderous indifference). Closed that day, but interiors are interesting, from the images in the IBA guide:
Coming to a waterside area near you, soon:
Below – Moore, Ruble, Yudell (left) Poly, Steinebach, Weber (centre) plus Robert Stern (right). Was quite cold by this point.
Poly, Steinebach, Weber (detail):
Stanley Tigerman. Really very cold by this point:
Residential terrace by Bangert, Jansen, Scholz, Schultes:
Antoine Grumbach (Freezing):
Finally, John Hejduk. See one of his other two IBA projects, widely known as the ‘Kreuzberg Tower‘, here. Too cold after this to work the camera, so back to the U-Bahn:
In London at the moment, with a bit of time to spare. So cunningly, before leaving Berlin, I put a pile of recent images I’d taken onto a disk, in order to edit and upload from here.
A shame then that I left the disk on the table in the flat in Berlin. Arse.
So instead of a blog about a trip to the IBA buildings at Tegel on a freezing winter evening, or another one about the demolition of a building near me on the Ufer which is being replaced with something ghastly, or an update on ‘Carloft’, just a bit of random wittering.
My girlfriend uploaded the Tegel pictures she took; here are a couple, to keep you distracted from this post’s lack of real content:
Tegel is the north westerly part of Berlin, a quite posh part in fact, and rather beautiful on the day we visited. Tegel (or to be more accurate, the borough of Reinickendorf) seems to be twinned with Greenwich (in southeast London, not New York) which sort of makes sense. The main promenade features London street signs and a red phone box. Curiously, both areas have large scale construction from the eighties – the former being the money-fuelled blandless of Canary Wharf, the latter being the IBA-fuelled madness of postmodernism. More on this when I get home and upload all the images.
We had no idea that the lake and harbour would be completely frozen, with skaters and assorted winter sports.
Oh yes – following my recent rants about the reconstruction of the Schloss (see ‘All Just A Facade’), I came across a good site here, summarising items in the press about it (some in english), and also ‘Kein Schloss in meinem Namen‘ (No Castle in my name) – a petition against it. You put your protest photo in, it’s cool. Not sure if I can add mine, as I’m not german, so it’s not strictly speaking ‘in my name’ at all. I pay taxes to Berlin though (any thoughts, readers?).
I note from the Schloss’s fundraising newspaper that, bizarrely, the apparently-not-dead Henry Kissinger is backing the Schloss scheme and attending fundraising dinners. Judge your enemies by the friends they keep, to misquote a phrase. In fact, it’s like hearing that Albert Speer is still knocking around, and has thrown his weight behind the construction of a new triumphal arch. (Weirdly, Albert Speer’s son, also named Albert Speer, is still around, and is an architect. You’d change your name, wouldn’t you?)
Right, off to look at London things now.
Regular viewers will have realised by now that I have three methods of procuring the images on this site:
1. Taking a snap with my camera phone as I wobble past, often without getting off my bike. These are easy to spot, and often feature my thumb, or a passer-by junping out of the way.
2. Borrow my girlfriend’s digi-SLR, and point it at things without ever knowing or caring what most of the buttons are for. This accounts for most of the images so far.
3. Noticing that someone else has put a much better photo on Flickr, and pilfering it, with only a mumbled apologetic footnote.
Obviously method no.3 is by far the best, as it saves me valuable time, which I will spend wisely (by sitting in the cafe next door, pondering on the nature of architecture).
To this end, I’ve started a Flickr group here. It’s just for IBA 1987 images, as this is the strongest thread of this blog.
At the time of writing, it has only two members (me and my girlfriend) and no images. So I’m off to invite joinees and add some myslf, but please do join up and add your own.