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.
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) yahoo.co.uk, 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.
I wouldn’t want anyone to think that my recent post on the 87 IBA was a full-blown defence of postmodernism; it was more about the merits of careful urban planning. I only mention this because I was walking around Aldo Rossi’s Quartier Schützenstrasse in central Berlin the other day, and was having fairly negative views on po-mo as a style.
It was built in the mid 90s, following the ideas of critical reconstruction developed from the IBA, and is instantly recognisable by its multicoloured facades; it seems at first glance to be a series of different buildings on the same block, each a different (mostly primary) colour.
Despite the interesting layout of its internal courtyards, and the inclusion of one pre-existing building, its basically one big speculative development with the potential to remove internal partitions for continuous office space.
The splitting of the facades into apparently separate buildings is therefore entirely false, and deliberately underlined by the inclusion of a copy of the Renaissance Palazzo Farnese (to the left of the first image). This is architectural humour, apparently.
It’s admittedly a good antidote to some of the frankly horrible featureless corporate blocks which dominate the area, but the real problem, as ever in architecture, is in the detail.
It’s just all too plastic looking, especially the ‘renaissance’ stone detailing, which, although it is actual stone, looks like plastic panels with visible gaps between; the stonework doesn’t meet the floor.
Anyway, enough already with the moaning. This was the last dying gasp of PoMo as a style in Berlin, and on the whole gave way to a mixture of straight pastiche and corporate modernism that frankly isn’t much better.
Location: bounded by Schützenstrasse, Charlottenstrasse, Zimmerstrasse and Markgrafenstrasse.
By way of technical accuracy, the design is jointly by Rossi, with M. Kocher, M. Scheurer, Götz Bellmann and Walter Böhm. I’ve the latter two listed as ‘planning partners’ in various guidebooks. I assume this means that they were involved in the overall planning of the scheme but not the detailed design. This would make sense, as Bellmann and Böhm were the designers of ‘New Hackescher Markt’ – a series of buildings and courtyards to the northeast of Museum Insel.
Is the building of memorials the best way to remember either the victims or the perpetrators of the Third Reich?
I’m asking this, not because I want to turn this into a blog about war guilt (I’d be out of my depth) but because it still remains a critical issue relating to what has been built, what hasn’t been built, and what might be built at two sites in central Berlin.
The first, a stone’s throw from the Brandenburg Gate, is the Holocaust Memorial, which occupies a large open site on the edge of the area formerly occupied by the Reich Chancellery. Currently, in an adjoining building, is an exhibition called ‘Mythos Germania’, focusing on Hitler and Albert Speer’s megalomaniac plans for rebuilding Berlin. More on all of this later.
If you walk a few blocks south of the Holocaust Memorial, to the junction of Wilhelmstrasse and Niederkirchnerstrasse, and look west, you’ll see this:
The most obvious thing is a remaining section of the Berlin Wall. This remnant formed part of the western side of the boundary, and it’s this western boundary which is now marked as a continuous line of cobbles across streets and pavements where it ran through the city.
On the right is a corner of the vast Reich Aviation Ministry (now the Finance Ministry), built in 1935-36 by Ernst Sagebiel.
After the fall of the Wall, it housed the Treuhand-Anstalt, the government agency whose job was to privatise East Germany’s state-owned economy. Its director, Detlev Rohwedder, was assasinated here.
The Topography of Terror
Immediately to the left of the wall is an excavated trench, housing a small, semi-enclosed exhibition known as the Topography of Terror. It’s appropriately named. In 1986, excavations on this apparently empty site exposed parts of the cellars of the Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse 8 – the Gestapo headquarters. The ruins uncovered included several cells of the Gestapo jail.
This led to the Topography of Terror exhibition being founded on the site, initially intended to be temporary, but still currently in place, and receiving huge visitor numbers every year. (It was busy when I went, on a rainy April tuesday.)
Prior to the discoveries, a huge memorial had already been planned on the site, designed by Jürgen Wenzel and Nikolaus Lang, intended to cover the entire site with iron plates, punctuated only by rows of chestnut trees. But the plan failed to meet the initial brief (it should have included a recreational park) and had been abandoned by 1984. For those who like to visit this blog for all things IBA related, it was this scheme that fell within the programme).
Following the fall of the Wall, it was decided that there should be a competition for a more permanent memorial and visitor building on the site; architect Peter Zumthor submitted the winning proposal. But from its proposed start in 1996, the project started to exceed its budget, and was beset by the technical difficulties of achieving the ambitious design. Staggeringly, the building was partly built, including the foundations and staircores, before being abandoned in 2000, later to be demolished. I’ve read lots about who was to blame, but knowing how these things work (I’ve headed some much smaller-scale construction disasters in my time), I wouldn’t want to speculate.
Since then, there’s been a new competition, with a new winner – Ursula Wilms – and a much lower-key proposal for a pavilion and landscaping of the site. The Zumthor design would have been much larger, and the visitor building far more dominant.
The Tagesspiel editorial in January 2006 gave its approval to the new Ursula Wilms design. However, it also commented that “Compared to the special architecture of the Holocaust Memorial and the Jewish Museum, there will be no special site where the perpetrators are remembered.” In other words, not everyone was a victim; someone carried out these crimes, and this should be remembered in the form of structures given equal prominence to the existing memorials. Perhaps. The only problem with big iconic structures built to remember the victims or the crimes, is that they reduce complex issues to simple aesthetic gestures. People like me would turn up just to look at the building.
The existing Topography of Terror exhibition has no iconic buildings or Starchitect involvement. There is no cafe. But hundreds of thousands of visitors come and read the information boards, set out under a simple, open wooden structure.
The Holocaust Memorial
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, colloquially known as the Holocaust Memorial, is perhaps what the Topography of Terror seeks to avoid. It’s an extraordinary undulating field of giant concrete rectangular blocks, occupying a truly enormous site in the heart of Berlin, and was designed by American architect Peter Eisenmann. I won’t attempt to describe the memorial further, as it’s been better described and photographed elsewhere.
As with the issues at the Topography mentioned earlier, there have long been questions asked about whether a site so close to the ‘ground zero’ of the Nazi crimes (Hitler’s Chancellery, and the bunker where he met his end) should be a structure drawing attention to the perpetrators, rather than the victims. I can’t answer this, but instead would note that either way, a positive statement has been made by the federal government in giving over such a substantial piece of Berlin real estate to such a memorial.
For me personally the design is effective, in part de to its sheer size and visual repetition. One oddity though: the information centre beneath the site is accessed via stairs and a lift whose detailing seems incongruous against the perfection and simplicity of the concrete blocks. It’s of course necessary to have a disability-accessible lift, railings, security cameras, post boxes and other paraphernalia, but couldn’t this all have been next to, rather than in amongst, the blocks themselves?
Post blog note: it seems that although Eisenmann was involved in the design of the underground exhibition centre, his proposal was for a separate building containing this function, standing away from the main memorial – the Berlin government however insisted that it take its current form.
There is no cafe, at least not forming part of the memorial, although there was debate recently about the a longer renewal of temporary planning permission for the buildings facing onto the memorial from the east. These do include some quite tacky cafes and gift shops.
Perhaps worse, there’s a quite horrible ‘Russian oligarchs and their girlfriends’-type nightclub which exits directly out across the road, beneath the back of the Akademie der Kunst (the yellow stripey building top right of photo above) creating a particulalry inapproprite mood if you walk past late evening.
… is the title of a current exhibition in the nearby Exhibition Pavilion, running until December. It centres around a scale model of Adolf Hitler and Albert Speer’s plans to rebuild Berlin as ‘Germania’, a new capital for the Reich, intended for completion around 1950.
No cameras allowed, unfortunately, so no photos.
I had been slightly worried that it would be filled with the ‘wrong sort’ of visitor – people with an unhealthy obsession with Nazis. But actually it wasn’t, and also isn’t ‘that sort’ of exhibition.
The model is fascinating (and ludicrous in the scale of its ambition – plans for the Volkshalle included a dome the height of today’s TV Tower) but it’s the surrounding information on the workings of Speer’s Germany that ultimately draws your attention.
Two things struck me:
1.The extent to which the plan was carried out, with large parts of central Berlin cleared (helped in part by the RAF, presumably).
2.The absolute complicity of Speer, and his vast building and military supply organisations, in the Holocaust. Labour for Speer’s plans was increasingly provided from concentration camps as labour ran short for the war effort.
Anyway, enough with the war and Nazis. A return to properly modern architecture for the next post, I promise.
Cycling into the city centre the other day I thought I’d take a new route, down Kurstrasse. It’s still something of a backstreet, despite being a block away from the site of the still-being-demolished DDR Palast Der Republik, but it seems major things are afoot.
One side of the street is entirely filled with the imposing neoclassical bulk of the Foreign Office. It was built as the Reichsbank, one of the first major buildings to be constructed by the Third Reich, to designs by Heinrich Wolff. In between 1945 and now, it’s been the DDR’s Finance Ministry, then the HQ of the ruling SED communist party (and at the same time the seat of the Politburo). The building was extended in the 1990s (Berlin’s main info website understandably downplays the presence of the older, National Socialist, part of the building).
Anyway, everything on the other side of the street is brand new, or still under construction. The new work appears at first glance to be a terrace of tall narrow townhouses, in a range of styles and materials, with generally modernist or half-hearted postmodern frontages.
I’m guessing that the city planners decided that the unforgiving facade of the Foreign Office couldn’t be met by an equivalent monolithic modernist facade across the street – i.e. the type of design which dominates so much of Berlin’s new government district. It might lead to uncomfortable comparisons. I’m also guessing that they then had two choices:
a) A single huge design for the street, but employing a less ’severe’ architectural approach, which broke it down into more humanely scaled elements. Takes a very good architect to pull it off.
b) Breaking the facade up into what appears to be a whole series of separate buildings, each one different, where the quality of architecture in itself is not so prominent – i.e. the option that’s being built.
Post-blog note: an amendment. As I recently learned at a conference in Porto, these buildings are indeed all separate plots, and in separate ownership, and largely residential townhouses. The financial model used was quite deliberate, as an attempt to bring new ownership and new residents into this otherwise pretty dead part of town. In terms of getting things built, this seems to have worked well. The aspect I’m less sure of is whether the differing height and style of each building seems a little posed. Despite their longing to appear individual, they’re clearly of the same age, and very similar in all but the most superficial styling.
A more successful attempt at the same idea (at least in terms of architecture) is perhaps in the eastern docks area of Amsterdam. But that’s the Dutch for you.
Anyway, enough chat, here’s the photos of the street. For safety reasons, I got off the bike before taking them.
The Foreign Office/Finance Ministry, built 1933-40. It’s no shrinking violet, is it?
The new extension, by Thomas Müller and Ivan Reimann (the entrance is on Werderscher Markt, round the corner).
And then the other side of the road:
Note the strange stonework, enlarged below:
A rather photo-heavy post, but excused by the fact that Axel Schultes’ crematorium is such a very photogenic building, particularly the interior.
Schultes is best known for his masterplan of Berlin’s government district around the Reichstag, and his practice’s designs for the Chancellory (Angela Merkel’s formal residence). Pictures of the Chancelllory are at the end – nothing wrong with the design, which uses some of the same themes and detailing, but somehow the whole building seems vastly overscaled; the Treptow crematorium is by far the more impressive piece of work.
Anyway, more images of the crematorium…
The columns are arranged apparently randomly around a large central space, off which are four chapels. In fact, the columns are carefully placed around a small circular fountain/pool in the centre, and subtly aligned with the features of the walls. The light from the head of each column is daylight – a clever structural arrangement allows for the column to be attached into the side of a circular hole. I could have spent the whole day just wandering around the place.
The pool has an egg almost invisibly suspended just above it. Permanent, or an Easter connection? Not sure. Am guessing the former, as it must be quite an operation to set up such an apparently simple thing.
One of the four chapels.
Curiously, gaps in the floor along the outer walls are filled with fine white sand, lit from beneath the floor level. Any overt meaning is lost on me.
The obligatory ‘angled arty image’.
Another oddity. Scattered around the perimeter of the building are hundreds of funerary urns and stones, presumably predating the new crematorium building. It’s as if the whole structure had just landed on its site, scattering everything that was there. But quite a deliberate detail, I’m guessing.
Finally, as noted at the top, some images of Schultes’ Bundeskanzleramt, taken on an open day last August (many of the government district’s buildings are open to the public once a year). In retrospect, I have to say that it all looks more effective in the photos than I remember it on the day. Maybe it’s the ivy? Anyway, interesting to note (interesting to me at least) that the same blue anodized metal is used for detailing (railings, vent panels etc) throughout, as in the crematorium. External columns also follow the same design as the crematorium’s internal space. Although you can’t really make out the heads of these in the image – it’s that ivy.
Schultes’ master plan creates a ‘long thin’ government district which crosses the Spree twice; the Chancellery gardens are reached across the pedestrian bridge on the left.
They need to keep that trimmed back… (you can make out Hugh Stubbins’ Haus der Kulturen der Welt in the background).
Note the blue metal detailing – not 100% sure that I like the effect. But the ivy looks good.
I’m getting loads of hits at the moment from searches for ‘David Chipperfield Berlin’ which I guess are all looking for stuff about the Neues Museum. Sorry! The building will open as a museum ‘proper’ in October. My own brief post and images here.
My original post, on Chipperfield’s slightly older building which is directly opposite the Neues Museum:
Just a quickie, to post a photo of David Chipperfield’s gorgeous new ’townhouse for the arts’ in central Berlin. It’s actually much bigger in person than it may appear here, as the storey heights are very tall. (Obviously, it’s hard to do a full scale photo of a building in a blog, unless you’re reading this on a screen the size of a building. You’re probably not.)
The surrounding area is a building site at the moment (an unavoidable side effect of making buildings, I guess) so the pictures lack that archi-pornographic quality: the absence of people, cars and the general mess of urbanity.
Chipperfield is rather big with the Germans – he just won Britain’s Stirling Prize for his Museum of Modern Literature in Marbach am Neckar, and his massive project for the re-ordering of Berlin’s Museum Island is currently under construction (across the road from the gallery shown here).
Needless to say that although he’s a British architect, he’s built very little in Britain. In part this is because
a) he’s not Norman Foster
b) the British have no time for architects who talk about anything but lettable floor area.
The BBC dumped him from the detailed design of their new Glasgow centre, which he claims he won’t step foot in until he gets an apology from the DG. His most notable UK building prior to this was Henley’s very low-key River & Rowing Museum.
Not that Berlin’s recent architecture is beyond criticism. The designs by various starchitects* which have filled in great swathes of post-Wall wilderness since the early 1990s (Potsdamerplatz in particular) are, shall we say, not their best work. And since then Berlin seems to be sliding dangerously into a ‘non-critical reconstruction’ of its past, the most notable example being the planned reconstruction of the Royal Palace on the site of the old GDR Palas Der Republik. Presumably the fact that the Germans have no royal family, and cannot agree on what to put in the building, are issues that can be addressed, well, some other time.
So it’s good to occasionally see a new building which isn’t in thrall to corporate glazing or historicist pastiche.
Chipperfield has an office here in Berlin, by the way. The most notable other completed project is some apartments he did overlooking a small park area round the back of Potsdamerplatz (behind the Sony Centre). I’ve borrowed a couple of images here from Exe on Flickr, hope he doesn’t mind. He’s got a much better one of Am Kupfergraben as well, without clutter.
*I hate this term but it seems increasingly apt these days.