Between the Devil and the deep blue suits.

Have just been to the opening of same same but different,  a show comprising two projects by up and coming Swiss practice EM2N, at the Architektur Galerie on Karl-Marx-Allee.  It was rather good, and the free wine and pretzels were also not bad.  The two projects are ‘Toni Areal‘ – a conversion of a milk factory into an art school for 3,000 students, and a second vast neubau school project in Ordos, China, also for around 3,000 pupils.  Both projects are huge for such a young practice (founded twelve years ago) and on the face of it confidently done, in that understated but highly crafted Swiss late modernism.

But I’m coming over all ‘architecture critic’ on you; I felt a bit underdressed and overwhelmed amongst all the sharp-suited/coolly bespectacled architects and assorted in-crowd, and left well before the wine ran out.

I thought I’d take a back route home and cycled south, past the Hochhaus an der Weberwiese.  It’s a curious area, which I now realise I don’t know at all, between Karl-Marx-Allee and the ever wonderful Berghain (which, if you didn’t know, is the world’s best club – if you only have 48 hours to spend in Berlin, spend them all at Berghain). It’s like the other good Berlin clubs to the power of ten – where others occupy parts of previously abandoned factories, Berghain occupies all of a very big abandoned factory.  A strange place to pass by late on a sunday afternoon, with dazed survivors stumbling confused into the sunshine,  to the thunder-like bass throb of techno still rattling the windows.

(Image courtesy of Wikimedia / Creative Commons)

Anyway, I digress.  Between these two extreme nodes (immaculately dressed architects / sweat-drenched techno) are some apartment buildings clearly built as part of Karl-Marx-Allee, but strangely neglected.  They’re not in my miniguide to ‘the Allee’ (as I’ve just decided to refer to it) and are presumably considered of less greatness, by those in the know.  Hopefully, as is often the case, someone reading this who knows much more about it will leave a comment.

The blocks centre around the junction of Gubener Straße and Wedekindstraße:

I blogged very early on (well, about a year ago) about Karl-Marx-Allee and how much I liked it, views which have changed with time (it reads now as a bit naive), but clearly I seem to have an affinity for the underdog: I was slightly saddened by the contrast between the shiny new creations on display at the Galerie and the neglect of the buildings around the corner. Not everyone’s cup of tea, sure (well, in fact probably almost no-one’s cup of tea) but I’m drawn to them, because… well because no-one else is.  Which is just odd.


He’s not dead, he’s just resting…

I’d be the first to admit that I’m not always the most frequent of bloggers, and I could come up with all sorts of excuses for this, but I’m guessing that your time is short.  I will however just casually mention that I’ve just finished cycling from Vienna to Dresden, and therefore

a) there was not much time for blogging, and

b) wireless reception was poor in the Czech Republic, plus it’s hard to balance a keyboard on bike handlebars.

So just a quick one, to promise that I will write some proper posts shortly (I returned home to find that a publisher has sent me a whole pack of goodies, which I’ll be reviewing here as soon as I’ve read them) and to post an image sent me a while back from Pedro in Porto.  It shows part of Alvaro Siza’s Bonjour Tristesse project, a part of Berlin’s 1987 IBA programme; Siza planned the whole block, which includes two other new structures, as well as the more familiar corner building.

I’m a big fan of Siza’s work, which generally comprises beautifully proportioned white buildings standing in perpetual southern european sunlight, like this one:

(image thanks, OunoDesign)

Whereas here in the Haupstadt, his design has been ‘Berlinified’, courtesy of the youth of Kreuzberg:

They’re not Kreuzberg youth in the picture by the way – it’s an old folks’ day centre (although the old lady pictured appears to be stealing a chair, rather than going for a chat about the old days).  It’s on Falckensteinstrasse, and there’s a very good ice cream parlour next door, if you’re out this way.  Obviously don’t forget to look at Bonjour Tristesse itself, which is out of shot to the right.