The Berlin IBA 1987

“… the greatest creations of architecture are not so much the product of individual labour, rather the product of social endeavour, they are things simply cobbled together by working people, rather than inspired inventions of the creative genius, they are the traces a nation leaves behind, the strata deposited by the centuries, the lees of successive evaporations of human society, in short they are a kind of geological formation”.

Victor Hugo

In the UK, the term postmodernism is still a dirty word; it refers to that clunky jokey-neoclassical architecture that was used to design speculative, planning-restriction-free office developments in the Thatcherite years of the 1980s.

But in Berlin at that time, postmodernism was the style of a different kind of development – carefully planned urban housing and infrastructure projects. In the UK, architects had withdrawn from designing mass housing after the disastrous social experimentation of the 1960s and 1970s. In Germany, they just went back to the drawing board.

In 1979, West Berlin commenced an international competition for reconstructing parts of the city, respecting (or reintroducing) the city’s original urban street plans – the foundation of Critical Reconstruction which was to become the basic principle for rebuilding post-wall Berlin.

Initially, the idea was to have a building exhibition much like the 1957 Interbau (the Hansaviertel) – a one-off presentation of the latest in design at a single site. But the programme was subsequently expanded into an ongoing 10 year research programme of new construction and refurbishment across the city, focusing on areas still completely empty since the war (for new buildings), but also on the ‘SO36’ area of Kreuzberg, which was fast decaying into an urban slum area of squats and low rent, poor quality housing.

The original idea of a ‘building show’ survived, primarily in southern Tiergarten, but for me the integrated refurbishment and rebuilding of the existing grain of Berlin’s Kreuzberg quarter is by far the more interesting part.

IBA stands for Internationale Bauaustellung, by the way. Initially known as ‘the IBA 1984’, delays led to a renaming as ‘the IBA 1987’, although to declare it as any single year belies the underlying principle that it was a long term project, which also founded a company, S.T.E.R.N. to continue its work.

The programme was divided into ‘IBA Neubau’ (new buildings), under Josef Paul Kleihues, and ‘IBA Altbau’ (mainly the repair and alteration of existing blocks), under Hardt-Waltherr Hämer. Neubau was across Tegel, Prager Platz, southern Tiergarten and southern Friedrichstadt, Altbau in Kreuzberg only. Altbau includes many new buildings, such as Alvaro Siza’s Bonjour Tristesse (see below) but was tag was given to signify that such buildings were integrated into existing street blocks.

I have started adding and regrouping individual projects under two other pages – see IBA Neubau and IBA Altbau. So treat the list below as a sort of ‘sampler’ list.

Also, have started a Flickr group here, should anyone want to add images.

One other thing; it’s quite easy to judge these buildings superficially, by the style of their facades, which often have not suffered well at the hands of the architectural fashion-makers. But what strikes you most as you walk around them is the thought that’s gone into the integration of the buildings, especially the communal spaces in the ‘hofs’ behind. Photos don’t really do these justice.

Hinrich & Inken Baller – Apartment Blocks on Fraenkelufer, 1982-1984

I’ve set up a separate page for this, here.

Buildings on Fraenkelufer, 87 Interbau


Peter Eisenmann and Thomas Leeser – ‘Haus Am Checkpoint Charlie’, Kochstrasse 62-63, Kreuzberg, 1982-1984

This block must have been bizarrely close to the wall when completed; its lower floors now house the Checkpoint Charlie Museum. Eisenmann’s best known work in Berlin is of course the Holocaust Memorial.

Confusingly, across the road, is a second building often published as ‘Haus am Checkpoint Charlie’ (House at Checkpoint Charlie), but this one is by OMA (Rem Koolhaus, Elia Zenghalis, and a certain Matthias Sauerbruch, now of Sauerbruch Hutton), 1981-1989

Separate page on it here.

Ritterstrasse North and South Sites, Kreuzberg

Rob KrierMasterplanning of Ritterstrasse North (1982-1989) and Ritterstrasse South site (1978-1980).

Loads on this, on a separate page here.

Krier also designed individual buildings on the site, including the Feilnerhaus on Schinkelplatz (a reconstruction of the facade of a Karl Friedrich Schinkel building?). There’s a list of architects who designed buildings within Ritterstr north on his own site.

Wohnpark Am Berlin Museum (Residential Park by Berlin Museum)

This is immediately to the south of the Ritterstrasse sites, so I’ve wrapped it all up in a single separate page, which is here. But in summary:

  • Hans Kollhoff and Arthur Ovaska did the (much developer-altered) masterplan for the huge site, incorporating two old buildings; the Berlin Museum and the former Victoria Insurance building. Individual designs by:
  • Arata Isozaki – Lindenstrasse 15-19, 1982-1986
  • Werner Kreis, Ulrich & Peter Schaad – Entrance block on Lindenstrasse
  • Stavoprojekt Liberec – long block on Alte Jakobstrasse
  • Kollhoff & Ovaska – block behind the Victoria Insurance building
  • Dieter Frowein & Gerhard Spangenberg – block on northeast edge

Rauchstrasse, Tiergarten

Link to a fuller page here, summary as follows:

  • Rob Krier – Masterplanning of whole site, 1980-1985, individual buildings generally 1983-1985
  • Krier also designed the arched gateway building into the site (Rauchstrasse 4-10); other architects are again listed on his site, but are hopefully covered here:
  • Aldo Rossi – Townhouse
  • Bangert, Jansen, Scholz, Schultes – Four Townhouses, Rauchstrasse 19-20
  • Nicola Battista, Giorgio Grassi, Edoardo Guazzoni, Guido Zanella – Townhouse at Rauchstrasse 3
  • Hans Hollein, with H Strenner, W Fritsch, U Liebl, K Matuschek, F Madl, D Nehnig, E Pedevialla – Rauchstrasse 4 – 10
  • Klaus Theo Brenner & Benedict Tonon – Townhouse

Aldo Rossi, with Jay Johnson, Gianni Braghieri, Christopher Stead South Friedrichstadt Block 10, Wilhelmstrasse 36-38; Kochstrasse 1-4, Kreuzberg, 1981-1988

A separate post on Aldo Rossi’s later Berlin housing work here.

Charles Moore, John Ruble, Buzz Yudell and others (have seen listed as ‘Urban Innovations Group) – Apartments ‘Am Tegeler Hafen, Reinickendorf, 1987

The US firm ‘Moore Ruble Yudell’ is currently completing the new US Embassy here in Berlin.

O M UngersFlats on Köthener Strasse 35-37; Bernburger Str, Kreuzberg, 1987

Steidle & Partner (Roland Sommer, Otto Steidle, Siegwart Geiger, Peter Böhm)Housing for Elderly, Köpenicker Strasse 190-193, Kreuzberg, 1985-1987

See separate page here.


John Hedjuk – Apartments, Charlottenstrasse, Steglitz-Zehlendorf, 1988

See separate page here.

Zaha Hadid‘IBA Block B, Stesemannstrasse, 1987-1994. It’s next door to an office building by Will Alsop (which is not partof the IBA). Both are early works, and are not recognisably the fluid deconstructivism of Hadid or the blobby fun of Alsop. I’ve done a separate page here.


5 thoughts on “The Berlin IBA 1987

  1. hello! I’m writing a book on architecture in East and West Berlin (1961-89) and stumbled upon your website as I was working on the chapter that deals with IBA. I would love to talk to you about the possibility of using some of your images for the book. Of course I would give you and your website credit…please email me if this is something you would be interested in: emily[at]

  2. I am a Professor of Architecture, University Federal Fluminense, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and I am writing a proposal comparing IBA and São Paulo architecture, thanks for the wonderful website!

  3. Hello
    Do you know any photographers who have good photos of the IBA Social Housing Block by Aldo Rossi?
    also where I could get a good site plan of it?



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