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.


The IBA 1987, Neubau

2008.07.13

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.

Critical (of) Reconstruction

2008.03.02

See also this link to a conference on critical reconstruction and the IBA, in Porto, Portugal, 4th – 8th November: http://berlim-reconstrucaocritica.blogspot.com/.  My original post below:

‘Critical Reconstruction’. A term used to describe the policy for rebuilding post-wall Berlin. The vast areas of waste ground left by the wall zones were to be infilled, by reverting to older street patterns, and by following a set of conservative building codes which limited the height, and (in places) the style of new buildings.

In Pariser Platz, next to the Brandenburg Gate, the building rules seem to have been at their most restrictive, with every new building complying with the required style of horizontal stone banding. Frank Gehry’s Deutsche Bank HQ has had to hide his signature shiny-curvy building behind a singularly uninteresting façade. The rebuilt Hotel Adlon is just an overscaled version of the original, and the recently-completed American Embassy, which has the prime spot overlooking the Tiergarten and the Holocaust Memorial, sets new standards for blandness. The only building that subverts the rules slightly is Michael Wilford’s British Embassy (not saying this just cos I’m a Brit) – angular structures in purple and blue appear to explode from a ‘missing’ section of the plain stone façade.

BA

The vast new buildings of Potsdamer Platz, designed by a string of ‘big name’ architects, are curiously underwhelming;  the whole layout of the site was something of a compromise with the major site owners (I’ll save a rant about that for another day).

But the greatest loss of nerve is the Reichstag. “Surely” you’re thinking, “this is a triumphant rebirth of Germany’s parliament building in an assured high tech intervention by Norman Foster?” Or words to that effect.

Well yes it’s not bad. It’s still one of his best works, with his signature ‘techno bits inserted in an old building’ look, done well. But it could have been something altogether more radical.

I’ve not been able to find a good link or non-copyright-breaching image, so instead, here’s an artist’s impression (the ‘artist’ being me):

The Reichstag - as it could have been

The competition to transform the Reichstag into a new parliament building had three joint winners: Norman Foster, Santiago Calatrava and Pi de Bruijn. But all three were subsequently asked to start over based on a much reduced brief, essentially requiring less floor space, contained entirely within the existing structure.

Foster won this ‘second’ competition with the design which was carried through – including the familiar spiral ramps inside a glass dome.

Reichstag

But his original design proposed a colossal independent roof structure, enclosing not only the Reichstag but a large space around it, even spanning across part of the river Spree. A raised podium would have covered the same area, cutting off the lower parts of the original building’s façades. The Reichstag would thus have been only a part, albeit the key element, of a larger whole; a literal representation that the new parliament would stand as something which accepted and incorporated the nation’s past, but at the same time would be something new and open.

It was a strong idea, particularly as the original 19th century building is considered by many to be a bit of a dog’s dinner. It was a not entirely successful attempt to merge a number of disparate styles, and couldn’t better represent the dead end that neoclassicism had reached in the years preceding the birth of modernism. Even its architect, Paul Wallot, admitted that he struggled with an ‘impossible’ task.

There was also the fact that the building was not in its original ‘intact’ state: it had been burned out in the 1930s, shelled by the Russians, and already refurbished in the 1960s.

So as architecture, it didn’t really bear comparison with the government seats of some other nations – Barry and Pugin’s Palace of Westminster, for instance. But in the end, conservatism prevailed, the competition requirements were rewritten to ensure that the building wasn’t radically changed. So that’s what’s now on the postcards.