Aaargh. I wish I could clone myself, and leave a copy at home blogging while other versions of me explored interesting architecture, went clubbing, sat reading in cafes and completed the (un)surprisingly time-consuming task of starting an English konditorei business. (Admittedly this last item will seem somewhat random if you don’t know me personally, but that’s what I’m mainly doing these days.)
I use the word ‘aargh’* in a sort of angsty frustated way, because there’s so much that I wanted to blog about, but haven’t had a chance.
So below is an outpouring of apparently unconnected things which I’ve seen/been on/have caught my eye recently.
Firstly, this looks really good, starting this weekend, at Kraftwerk Mitte, close to the DAZ and sort-of part of the same power station complex that houses Tresor. I think I might go along to the opening on Friday night, let me know if you fancy it and we’ll meet up. Not sure about the English version of the title – “REALSTADT: Wishes Knocking on Reality’s Doors” (?!) and can’t grasp the numbers, but it describes itself thus:
“The selection of 250 architectural and urban models and 65 exemplary projects is based on nationwide calls including the competition «National Prize for Integrated Urban Development and Baukultur». Projects were submitted by municipalities, architectural practices, universities, initiatives and individuals. In the exhibition at Kraftwerk Mitte the projects from all over Germany are fused into a temporary city, where Bremen and Aachen, Görlitz and Ulm find themselves next to each other.”
What else? Oh yes, a couple of weeks back I went on a manic but very interesting tour of the Saxony-Anhalt IBA 2010, based around 19 cities, each with its own theme and approach. This was less about ‘big architectural statements’ (in fact, one of the aims was to avoid these) and more about how to do something positive with the fact that these cities are shrinking. It’s been developed over the last ten years by the Bauhaus Foundation Dessau, (Dessau-Roßlau is included) and focuses on a different series of projects within each city/town.
(Photo above looks like a brochure, but was just a random snap, oddly).
I was first drawn toward this subject a couple of years ago, via the Shrinking Cities project and exhibition. The idea of cities shrinking on any sort of significant scale is something that feels like an alien concept, but in fact one in four cities and towns in the world are losing population. By the middle of this century, when the global population begins to fall in absolute terms, it’s going to be an issue everywhere. The demographics of all this fascinate me, and I need to write seriously about the whole thing soon.
Anyway, moving on…
Some images of the thing they call the Schwerbelastungskörper (my current favourite german word), which translates here as ‘Heavy Load-Bearing Body’, which says it all really.
(My wife waving while I took the photo – it makes us look like alien lifeforms.)
It stands as an unintentially profound monument to the sheer pompous ambition of the Third Reich; essentially a massive lump of concrete built to test the ability of Berlin’s marshy ground to take the massive weight of Hitler & Speer’s colossal but massively ugly design for a triumphal arch, as part of their plan to rebuild Berlin as Germania.
The planned arch would have stood at the end of a triumphal parade route, the ‘North-South Axis’ that ran up to the Great Dome, which would have straddled the Spree to the north of the Reichstag. When I first spotted the Schwerbelastungskörper a while back, I wondered what it was doing way out near tempelhof airport. It was then that the sheer scale of the plans hit me. If you stand on the viewing platform that places you just above the top of this vast piece of concrete, you can look north and try and imagine a road wider than several city blocks, ending in a dome larger than, well, all sorts of huge buildings stacked on top of eachother.
It’s open two or three days a week, but also as part of the ‘The Tag des Offenen Denkmals’ the other weekend. I normally find the problem such ‘open house’ days, is that there’s such an overwhelming amount to see for archi minded folk such as us, that you end up feeling exhausted before it’s begun, and see none of it. I then go on to console myself with the thought that I’ll use that year’s catalogue of all the buildings to organise small or private tours at other times of year. Which then happen infrequently.
Anyway, this year bagan the same way, with the added confusion of this year’s Berlin Festival at Tempelhof, which, as most Berliners will know, was something of a disaster, being closed early on the first night by the police (overcrowding was blamed, over-zealous security following the Love Parade tragedy the more likely reason) and the remaining acts being compressed into a few hours on the following afternoon. So I gave up on the second day, and went to see the Schwerbelastungskörper, which is nearby.
Right, then I was going to about some of the many Berlin works of Hans Heinrich Müller, the architect who built so many of those fantastic brick power and transformer stations around Berlin. But I’m too tired now, so will save this for another day. Except to say that the first one I saw is right next to the block I live in, on the Landwehrkanal in Kreuzberg, and is fantastic.
(Above photo taken in the snow in Jan 09 – the building just to the right has been replaced with something horrible, which I also need to include in a blog post soon).
*I admit that ‘aargh’ is not really a word. More of a noise.