Der Hinterhof in Berlin – Brennpunkt des Berliner Städtebaus (3 July 2013)

Short notice, but I’ll be giving a short talk tomorrow with Prof. Harald Bodenschatz at the TU, as part of an event for the launch of the Berlin Urban Design book (see earlier post).

I’ll stick to the point, and they’ll be slides!  All details below:

Der Hinterhof in Berlin
Brennpunkt des Berliner Städtebaus

Abendveranstaltung
anlässlich des Erscheinens der zweiten, erweiterten Auflage von
* Städtebau in Berlin. Schreckbild und Vorbild für Europa
* Berlin Urban Design. A Brief History of a European City
Verlag DOM publishers

Zeit: 4. Juli 2013, 18 Uhr
Ort: orangelab, Ernst-Reuter-Platz 2

In der städtebaulichen Debatte fungierte der Hinterhof über Jahrzehnte als schlimmste Verkörperung unmenschlichen Wohnens, als finsterer steinerner Ort ohne jede Nutzungsqualität, als Hölle für aufwachsende Kinder, als Mahnmal der nicht erhaltenswerten, ja unbedingt zu beseitigenden Mietkasernenstadt. Heute ist der Hinterhof wieder rehabilitiert, als ruhiger, oft grüner Raum, dessen Struktur bei Neubauten sogar eine Wiederauferstehung feiert. Kein städtebauliches Element wurde in der jüngeren Städtebaugeschichte dermaßen verteufelt wie der Berliner Hinterhof, und kein städtebauliches Element hat ein solch atemberaubendes Comeback erlebt wie eben jener Hinterhof.

Begrüßung und Moderation
Prof. Dr. Cordelia Polinna, TU Berlin

Von der Hölle zur Idylle
Zur Karriere des Berliner Hinterhofes
Prof. Dr. Harald Bodenschatz, TU Berlin

Comment: An English Perspective on Berlin
Jim Hudson, http://www.architectureinberlin.com, Co-Übersetzer der zweiten englischen Auflage

Das Berlinbuch: Start der Reihe „Grundlagen“
Natascha Meuser, Verlag DOM publishers

Eine Veranstaltung des FG Planungs- und Architektursoziologie der TU Berlin
in Kooperation mit dem Verlag DOM publishers

Film Night: Berlin Babylon, Wednesday 5th December (2012)

Am very excited that Hubertus Siegert, director if the 2001 documentary film Berlin Babylon, will be joining us for a screening of his film, with a chance to chat about it afterwards.

The doc follows many of the key architects and other players in the ‘euphoric’ first wave of Berlin’s reconstruction in the late 1990s, including Renzo Piano, the late Günter Behnisch and others as they muse on the business of reconstructing huge areas of the city from scratch.

Plus it’s got a soundtrack composed by Einstürzende Neubauten, which you can’t say about many architecture documentary films. Or indeed most films.

As usual, 7.30pm at Hudson’s Cafe, Schönleinstr 1.  Be punctual, as we want to have some time at the end!

Various things.

Most of my time these days is running a bakery and cafe (those who know me know this has taken up… quite a lot of life recently).

Anyway, some things to do / see / things I have going on…

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 write 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).

Das ungebaute Berlin (9 Aug 2010)

Just a quick post to recommend ‘Das ungebaute Berlin‘, an exhibiton at the recently refurbished Cafe Moskau.  It’s only on until the 15th of August, and won’t take you hours.

jrs

Norman Foster’s original proposal for the Reichstag.

It covers 100 projects which, as you guessed, failed to get built in Berlin in the twentieth century, ranging from the very well known (Mies’ skyscraper on Friedrichstrasse) to the less so (Peter Cook, once of Archigram, happily wittering about some wonderfully odd plans for the western end of Kudamm).

The projects perhaps tell as much about the history of Berlin and of modern architecture as much as what was actually built – the megalomania of Speer, the almost-as-mad 1960s project to build a colossal motorway interchange by demolishing much of Kreuzberg, and the arguments and proposals over the big post-wall sites such as Potzdamerplatz.

There’s an extremely enticing book to go with it, which I’ll try and do a review of soon.

German text only by the way, with the odd english speaking architect in the interview videos (actually, pretty much all the interviewees are pretty odd, not least of all Peter Cook, bless ‘im).

Tag des offenen Denkmals

We’ve already established how bad I am at listing architecture-related events.  But by way of further proof: I failed to mention yesterday’s Lange Nacht der Museen (long night of the museums) or last weekend’s Tag der offenen Tür der Bundesregierung (the ‘Open House’ day for federal government buildings).

So let me put this right by mentioning the forthcoming Tag des offenen Denkmals, on the 13th September.  Literally the ‘day of open monuments’, it covers more than monuments, and more than one day (a great number of the buildings are open on the 12th as well.

Struggle through the typically poor website (this is germany, so no clues given, such as images for the buildings listed) but if you can pick up the free catalogue around the city, it’s much more readable.  Especially on the bus.

Essentially, the ‘day’ seems to cover just about every building in Berlin of interest that isn’t new – so there are plenty of modern classics in there.  Most have guided tours (although generally in german).

Far too many buildings to mention here, but they include the Haus des Lehrers:

the Bauhaus Archiv,   the Hansaviertel, multiple buildings on, and tours of, Karl-Marx-Allee, Scharoun’s Staatsbibliothek, Mendelsohn’s Metallarbeiter building:

…. theLe Corbusier Haus, churches, bunkers, factories, private houses and all of the major, and recently UNESCO listed, modernist estates around the city.

I’m going to have a lie down now, as have become too excited.

From Bauhaus to Our House (about 20 mins by bike)

Just a quickie to promote the Modell Bauhaus, opening this week at Martin Gropius Bau until 4th October.  It combines the forces of the Bauhaus Archiv Berlin, Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau and the Klassik Stiftung Weimar, who between them are displaying around 1,000 objects; it’s the largest ever Bauhaus exhibition.  More is more, as Mies didn’t say.

Anyway, went to the press opening this morning and would recommend going.  The exhibition is well designed (chezweitz & roseapple) and organised chronologically, with each period allocated a colour (referencing Johannes Itten’s colour sphere, apparently).  The final room, detailing the closure of the Bauhaus in 1933, ends in black.

Also included is Do-It-Yourself Bauhaus, artist Christine Hill’s installation occupying much of the main atrium (see first two pics).

If for some reason this enormouse dose of seminal modernism is not enough for you, the Gropius Bau is also hosting its leg of the Le Corb tour – Le Corbusier, Kunst und Architektur, which I haven’t seen yet.