Hejduk defacement, the story continues… (17 March 2010)

Seems this story has really started to roll since I first heard from Renata Hejduk a few days ago, about the thoughtless and unsympathetic alterations currently being carried out to her father’s building on Charlottenstrasse (see previous post).

This is largely due to the huge effort being made by Ian over at SLAB and architect Robert Slinger, of Kapok architects. (Robert also once lived in the building himself, and has a passion for Hejduk’s work).

I’ve spoken to a lot of people about this, and some have admitted that the building doesn’t appeal to them as a place to live, or as great architecture.  Perhaps understandable, given the lack of maintenance it received over the last few years, the fact that any original landscaping has long been reduced to scrub, and that there remains a large unoccupied and unlandscaped patch of land which the apartments overlook.  But I’d urge you to read what Robert has to say about living there, and read a little about Hejduk’s work.  I’ve said this before, but in my view Berlin is building very little anymore of real architectural interest or originality; it therefore seems bizarre that it shows so little respect for existing buildings that do possess such qualities.

A press release is circulating to a number of german and english magazines, with an online petition due to be up and running (hopefully!) today. Will add a link as soon as this is live.

I’m posting the bulk of the press release here, as I think it gives a useful summary:

The ‘Tower’ – actually a suite comprising a thin, 14-storey tower set between two 5-storey wings – is one of only a handful of built works by this influential architect. Berlin has three examples, all social housing schemes built as part of the IBA 1987 international building exhibition.

The Kreuzberg Tower ensemble is typical of Hejduk’s late work, exhibiting an intense fascination with simple geometric forms, narrative mythologies and anthropomorphic symbolism. Hejduk’s three Berlin schemes bucked the colourful post-modern trends of the time with a subdued colour palette of grey and green, described by the architect as homage to the unique sky and the built fabric of the city

The present owners acquired the buildings recently as a result of a foreclosure, which followed many years of neglect. As part of ongoing refurbishment works, they have published images of the planned changes showing the removal of the distinctive sun shades over windows, enlarged balconies, and a new colour scheme in a white and bright pink, described by managers BerlinHaus Verwaltung GmbH as “tasteful living” and “apartments in Bauhaus style”. In parallel with the renovation, current tenants are being forced to move out as a result of drastic rent increases.

Doctor Renata Hejduk, the daughter of the John Hejduk and an architectural historian,, contacted the owner earlier this year to discuss the building alterations, but received only a dismissive response. She commented: “I tried everything I could to get them to stop and at least consult with the Estate and other architects who were interested in helping to preserve them. They were completely uninterested and felt their facade changes would be much better than the original.”

John Hejduk, best known as one of the ‘New York Five’ group that included Peter Eisenmann and Richard Meier, and as Dean of the Cooper Union School of Art and Architecture in New York from 1972 until 2000.


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