Hip to be square?

I’ve previously blogged about the fact that Berlin is in the process of losing one of its O M Ungers buildings. Though he was not universally popular as an architect, this is a great loss, I believe, as well as a symbolic one:  it marks Berlin’s transition from the Critical Reconstruction of the 1980s and 1990s into a new period defined by the free reign of developers.  I hope I’m wrong about this.

Anyway, this will leave two Ungers buildings that I’m aware of in Berlin – the other block which he did as part of the IBA, and a court complex at Hallesches Ufer (no.62).  It’s an unassuming building at a glance, not helped by my customary camera phone low-res, low quality images.

As with many of his works, the square and cube are repeated devices in, and you might even say the basis of, the design.  Windows, cladding, plan form, elevations, sections, structural grids

The plan form is interesting too – the newer Ungers building wraps around three sides of the older courtbuilding, with prominence given to the largest cube form of the building, in which the main court chamber and council rooms are located.


Integration of the new and old buildings accounts for some of the labyrinthine quality of the building, but not all of it.  The problem for me is a suspicion that at times Ungers is less the master of the square and more a slave to it.  Can plans and sections based on fundamentally squares always be the best solution?  And if the square is so fundamentally important, what happens in locations where it just can’t be achieved? The staircase at the back of the entrance hall just can’t be tamed, and the grids go awry, as one example.

Even the bike racks confirm to the ‘tyranny of sqaures’


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