Along Kochstrasse… part 3

Actually this is not even on Kochstrasse, but continuing east along the road which used to be Oranienstrasse but I think has changed its name, at least at the western end, for the usual historico-political reasons that allow the Berlin senate to believe that they respect Berlin’s recent difficult history while actually being hellbent on the complete erasure of anything that might hint of anything that doesn’t fit with a cosy rightwing conservative heritage-based tourist-driven view of the past, grrr…

Where was I?  Oh yes, another IBA building.  It’s tucked into the corner of the block which is mainly the vast Bundesdruckerie (it’s a license to print money, ha, ha).

This is part of Block 24, and known as the “Alte Feuerwache” (“Old Firestation) – a centre for young people.  Seems to work, as there were lots of cheerful looking young people there when I popped in, doing their young-people related activities.  It’s a partial reconstruction and adaptation of existing buildings, with a big bridge sort of thing.

It’s not immediately obvious from the street – there’s an entrance at Lindenstrasse 40/41, with a cafe.  The work is by Heinz-Jürgen Drews, in association with Architekturbüro Durchbruch and Ing-Gruppe Ökotec (power-heated-energy system) by the way.

Along Kochstrasse… part 2

It will come as no surprise to you that I need help.  But more specifically, does anyone know what this building is, on Kochstrasse, not far from Checkpoint Charlie, and opposite the IBA building further down this page?

I’ve noticed it a few times; looks early 90s to me, and is very ‘lightly’ built, lots of glass and steel framing.

Anyway, across the road is another block built as part of the 1987 IBA, by Hans Kammerer, Walter Belz and Klaus Kucher, on the corner at Kochstrasse 59/Charlottenstrasse 83 – part of Block 5, if you need to know.

It’s on the opposite corner from Sauerbruch & Hutton’s very fine GSW building (photo thanks, runningforasthma):

It’s classic IBA, with downplayed street facades, but ‘gives good courtyard’, with its own littel world tucked away from the busy main road.  Actually, I say ‘busy main road’ – of course this is Berlin, so it looks like a busy main road, but has the traffic flow of a small village.  One that’s not on the route to somewhere busy.

See what I mean? I particularly like the spirally entrance ramp, which I attempted to cycle up, which left me less-than-impressively jammed against a bend at one point, to the amusement of a resident coming in.

Along Kochstrasse… part 1

I know, I know…  I haven’t blogged for ages.  Excuses?  Loads, including the fact that I’ve been writing some actual paid for writing, which I’ll mention again ( when October’s edition of Blueprint magazine come out).   And I’ve been in London, where I’m always instantly thrown by all the traffic and people, and remain in shock for about a week on my return to lovely calm, quiet Berlin.

Anyway, what better way to return to blogging with some ever-untopical IBA buildings.  Some of which I’ve written about before, but I was just passing these on the way along Kochstrasse*, coming back from the Modell Bauhaus exhibition at the Gropius Bau (previously recommended).  So a bit of a ramble.

*at least one end of which has recently been renamed, confusingly, but I can’t remember what to.

A few months back I found myself sitting next to David Mackay, of MBM architects (a friend was designing his autobiography).  He was saying that the design of one of his  Kochstrasse buildings – this one in fact:

…was turned 90 degrees at a late stage, so that if need be, allied tanks could bypass Checkpoint Charlie and head up an alleyway between his building and Rem’s next door.  Not sure how this would have worked; it seems terribly narrow. And tanks are quite wide.

While I was musing on this, I took some photies of the back of the Koolhaas/OMA building.  I like the backs of buildings.  Especially the place they keep the bins – it sometimes tells you more about the architecture than looking at the front/insides does.  It’s an early one for Mr Koolhaas, but has some tell-tale details:

Note the sloping transome bar, obscured by some cabinets:

Will do the rest of this in parts, so that I can seperately tag them, as I’m anally retentive like that.  Back shortly.

A world away from Kottbusser

Seems like Summer’s arrived  in Berlin, thus dispensing with the awkward middleman of Spring altogether. It probably won’t last, but after months of low grey sky, everyone’s gone a bit mad with the joys of premature summer.  Walk into our local park (it’s Gorlitzer, admittedly) and it feels like the third day of a music festival.  But with much more rubbish.

I mainly mention all this because the images I’ve been collecting in the last few weeks were all taken while it was still uniformly bedeckt, and I just wanted you to know, if you’re not here in Berlin,  how beautiful the city looks on this glorious sunny easter weekend.  This explains the seemingly irrelevant* image below, depicting some people playing  boules on the canal just down from us the other evening:

image019

*Not entirely irrelevant actually, as the boules courts, and the whole of the landscaping of the north bank, were part of the IBA Altbau programme – a wholly overlooked part in fact.

Anyway, on with the archistuff.

Just down the Landwehrkanal from the scene above, is a block of housing which I’ve often mentioned – it’s the one which was replanned and partly rebuilt by Hinrich & Inker Baller, and features regularly in things you read about the IBA 1984/1987.  You know, it’s this one:

Anyway, what’s less often mentioned (and rarely photographed) is the rest of the block – collectively known in IBA nomenclature as ‘Block 70’.  The curvy Baller designs form three apparently separate buildings in the terrace facing onto the canal, and a larger rear block, which is only accessible via the large landscaped courtyard within.

Yet the whole IBA-defined ‘block’ is much larger than this.  Although much of it comprises reworkings of existing 19th century buildings, it’s of great interest to me, partly because

a) it’s a perfect example of the complex interweaving of old and new to create communities within a dense, fascinating mix of urban typologies

but mainly because

b) it includes a good pub, which runs a decent pub quiz on thursday nights.

As I wobble back home on my bike from the above mentioned institution, I’m aften given to musing  on the nature of planning, modernism and postmodernism.  It’s mainly the Guinness talking, but the immediate locality is like a planning lecturer’s dream;  directly to the north of Block 70 stand the monolithic 1970s concrete towers of Kottbusser Tor – essentially west Berlin’s attempt to match some of the East’s most visually unappealing Plattenbau estates with one of its own, but without the social infrastructure.  Nowhere else in Berlin, and possibly nowhere in most western cities, can you so clearly the excesses of brutalist ‘We Are The Planners, You Are The Planned’-type urban thinking, standing so close to its successor and antidote.

I should add that in strict architectural terms, I use the term ‘brutalist’ wrongly.  I love Denys Lasdun’s National Theatre as much as the next man (assuming that the next man is a member of the Twentieth Century Society), and I’m also not one of those people who believes in the power of architecture to solve deep-seated social and economic problems. But sometimes bad architecture can just, well, get you down.

The 1980s IBA did what it could in and around these structures (including turning a multistorey carpark into a community centre, complete with roof garden (see the sort of ‘I’ shape in the green square to the bottom left of the image above). But the housing blocks continue to be the local authority’s number 1 choice for housing its poorest residents.  ‘Kottie’ is notorious as a location for dealers, and although I don’t feel unsafe walking through it (I’m from southeast London) it’s not a place I’d want to live given a choice.  Apparently, and perhaps unsurprisingly, the whole monolithic ‘Kreuzberg Centre’ project was planned as a tax-saving write-off.

Kottbusser images, by the way, from the site www.sozialestadt.de, a project aiming to reintegrate socially deprived areas of inner city Berlin. The page I’ve linked to gives a good overview of what went wrong; a microcosm of bad 60s and 70s planning, complete with the blight of a planned-for-but-later-abandoned motorway project.  Add to this the peculiar geographical side-effects of a divided Berlin – this part of Kreuzberg was a peculiar dead-end peninsular surrounded on three sides by the wall.  Then of course the wall came down and changed… well, not everything.

Still not sure how to import Google maps, but if you look here, you can see Block 70 bounded by Fraenkelufer to the south and Kohlfurter Strasse to the north, with buildings gradullay rising in scale and ugliness immediately to the north of Kohlfurter Strasse, reaching their peak (if that’s the right word) at Kottbusser Tor itself.

Amazing then that such a contrast exists, like some rift in time between decades.  On the south side of Kohlfuter Strasse is my favourite building – as ever images here don’t do it justice.  It looks at its best at night, when you see that the original 19th century block has had its end wall opened up to create lighter, more open apartments, and making best use of the roof level with a greenhouse structure – both popular ‘tricks’ of the IBA Altbau programme.

Fragments of lost buildings are glimpsed in gardens; an antidote to the scorched earth policy of postwar planning up till that point:

Meanwhile, across the road, the 1970s:

Anyway, back at Block 70, arguably the best bits are those facing onto Erkelenzdamm.  Interestingly, these used to face onto another waterway – the Luisenstadt canal – filled in before the first world war I think, but whose route is still clearly visible (if you look at the map again, you can see how it ran north from the Landwehrkanal (east west), through Wassertorplatz (clue’s in the name) up to Michaelkirchplatz (a basin still filled with water) then turned 90 degrees east to curve round and up to the Spree.  Basically, just follow the streets ending in ‘damm’. Perhaps I’ll start a campaign to reopen it, just after I’ve bought a flat in a prominent overlooking position.  A view of water adds soooo much to property prices you know darling…

Might have to lengthen the Ballers’ cute little bridge though:

More of the original buildings facing onto Erkelenzdamm below.  This one has a certain faded beauty about it in my opinion. Pub just off to the right, out of shot :

When you look closely, you notice that there’s interesting things going on at roof level.  In fact, nearly all of the buildings within the block are linked high up by communal routes and spaces.

About a year ago a new block arrived to fill in a gap in the curved terrace of buildings, by architect Barbara Brakenhoff.  I quite like it, and I’m also quite jealous.  Essentially, it’s a residential community built by and for women, living singly or attached, but aimed at attracting women of all ages, and including fully accessible design for its older residents.  And a communal roof garden, damn them.  I’m a boy, so not worth putting my name down, obviously.

The project is a specific, women-orientated example of a german/Berlin trend for community building that’s sadly lacking in the UK.  Also a good example of how you can only make a good building with a good client, in this case an organisation formed by the people who will live in the building and have obviously placed some value on design.  I’m worried here that I’m sounding a bit like someone from one of those endless British design/urban/housing/planning/placemaking/benchmarking/taskforce-proposing organisations, but it’s true.

Off to sit in the sun now, so next post will probably be just wittering on about parks and stuff…

Interesting Canal Stuff (and IBA Block 647, Part 2)

I had planned to do a page on the IBA block as part of my ongoing accumulation of IBA buildings (find your niche and stick to it…) but actually the section of the Landwehrkanal which Block 647 faces on to is far too interesting to keep hidden away as a dull reference page.  In fact, the stretch of the canal from Potsdamer Brücke west to Lützowplatz is a virtual history of twentieth century modernism.

(I agree, before you point it out, that these are slightly arbitrary start and finishing points; interesting erections abound here in every direction, but you have to draw a line somewhere).

As a bonus, the marvellous M29 bus route, runs along the north bank going west, and the south bank going east.  (If I mention it often enough, perhaps I’ll get free bus travel?)

Going east along the canal from Lützowplatz, the first thing you see, on the opposite bank, is Walter Gropius’ Bauhaus Archiv:

(thanks to Umschauen for these)

Further along, you come to a little footbridge by Brenner & Tonon, built as part of the IBA:

Next, on the south side, are a row of four IBA townhouse blocks, built to be (at the time) cutting edge eco homes, including a small winter garden to each flat.

No. 2, by Schiedhelm, Klipper & Partner:

No 3, by Pysall, Jensen & Stahrenberg:

Then no.4, by the now mighty practice of von Gerkan, Marg & Partner (they did Berlin’s enormous new Hauptbahnhof)

And lastly no5, which I seem to have lost a main image of, so here’s the door:

It’s not all that, is it?  The door to no. 2 is more interesting, come to think of it:

Anyway, enough of that.  Next, across on the north bank, are the beautifully measured curves of Emil Fahrkamp’s Shell-Haus (now Gasag), 1930-31:

Then there’s James Stirling and Michael Wilford’s extension of the Wissenschafts Zentrum (Science Centre) – glimpses of which below.  This was also an IBA project, by the way.


The north bank then becomes the southern end of the Kulturforum, if that makes sense, with the familiar site of the Mies Neue Nationalgalerie (Umschauen again –  thanks!).

I think I’ve previously mentioned that opposite this, on the south side of the canal, is a rather fine 1929 building by Loeser & Wolff, with a quite cool Foster-ish two storey extension on top.  To quote me: “Its facade is finely proportioned and detailed (as architecture critics would say) and I like it very much.”

As part of the Kulturforum, on the north bank, is Hans Scharoun’s Staatsbibliothek (State Library) – still currently being bothered by much scaffold as well as huge temporary ductwork, so not what you’d call photogenic, but an absolute must to see inside:

(Another piece of thievery from Flickr, that one by jmtp)

And finally, because I promised myself I’d include them at some point, some more IBA blocks, which sit across on the other side of Potsdamer Strasse.  I’m used to IBA blocks looking fairly unspectacular from the street, but often the ‘private’ interior courtyards of the blocks reveal something really special.  Hence my disappointment here; I’m certain these buildings are not without merit, but they didn’t appeal to me on the day when I took these shots last summer. I remember being in a very good mood, and at that time obsessed with the idea of collecting every single IBA building, trainspotter-style.  The idea ended there, they were just that uninspiring. I gave up halfway through, bought a Cornetto, and sat in the canalside park (also an IBA creation).

Georg Heinrichs & Partner:

Corner block by Jürgen Sawade:

and Hilmer & Sattler’s block, with a bit of tree, facing onto the park:

No interior courtyard shots, because as I said, they just didn’t register as anything special.  In fact I’m struggling to think of more to say on them, so will leave it there.

But do take the time to head down to this part of town, using the M29 bus of course.  My free travel pass awaits.


Dies und Das

Yesterday the sun came out in Berlin, and there was much confusion and fear, followed by rejoicing when people realised what it was.  I thought to myself: “If it’s sunny again tomorrow, I’ll set off and take pictures of some of the many things I want to blog about”.

Today is saturday.  It’s cold, grey and uninviting outside, much like the last three months or so in Berlin, as far as I can remember.  So I’ve decided to stay in the warm and do a blog about… well, not sure really. I’ve been looking through a backlog of things that I’ve photographed or read about but haven’t never got round to mentioning.  Here are a couple.

I thought I would do a sort of ‘bunker collection page’ at some point.  I’ve previously mentioned the Boros collection and the biggy on Pallasstrasse.  Here’s another one, on Schöneberger Strasse, built in 1943:

It currently houses a small exhibition about the bunker itself, and also the Gruselkabinett, a kind of grisly Madame Tussaud’s type affair, if you like that sort of thing. It was retained as part of IBA Block 14, which included the construction of a new school.

The building was next to the huge Anhalter station, heavily damaged in the war, with only a bit of the entrance remaining; it’s the thing you pass on the M29 bus:

Thanks to Burak Bilgin, who I’ve nicked the Flickr image from.  In fact, there’s a set of images on Flickr of Berlin 1959/1960, by Allhails, which includes a couple of the station before total demolition:

Which reminds me that I wanted to mention the M29 bus route, as a fine thing in itself.  I think of it as a sort of ‘IBA express’; it runs through much of Kreuzberg and right past many of the IBA buildings which I’ve blogged about, as well as loads more interesting things which I haven’t.  Might do a full guide at some point.

I also never got round to including some various blocks on my IBA list, mainly because they were just a bit disappointing, even though it was a lovely summer’s day (that’s how long I’ve put off writing anything about them).

See what I mean?  Even I have to admit that not every building constructed as part of the International Bauaustellung 1984/87 really gets me excited.  Actually, the building opposite the one above interested me much more; it’s on the corner of the river bank and Potsdamer Strasse, directly opposite the Neue Nationalgalerie:

It looks to my untrained eye like a 1920s modernist building with a quite cool Foster-ish two storey extension on top.  In fact, have just checked my guidebook, and this is true: 1929, by Loeser & Wolff, although I don’t know who did the new part. Its facade is finely proportioned and detailed (as architecture critics would say) and I like it very much.

Anyway, while I’ve been wittering away, the sun has come out, so am off out for a late breakfast.

Post blog note: yes I did know it was Valentine’s day.  Me and the missus went out that evening, since you ask.

Dusk in Tegel.

Readers of a nervous disposition should look away now; there’s about to be more 1980s postmodernism.

As promised, a post with some images of housing at Tegel, with a selection of buildings forming part of the IBA 1984/1987. These are a long way from the regeneration-needy areas of Kreuzberg in southern Berlin where most of the IBA projects lie; Tegel is a much wealthier spot, and these blocks are set on the harbour opening out into the lake. In this part of the IBA the accent was perhaps more show home than urban regeneration.

The final stage of the original masterplan – buildings on the harbour island – remained on paper. My IBA source book indicates this was to be an Arts, Education and Leisure complex, although there is now new housing going up instead. The Humboldt library building immediately to the east was built though, as well as Gustav Peichl’s phosphate elimination plant across the road. I didn’t get that far mind you, as I was freezing my knackers off, frankly.

Dated po-mo? You bet. But strangely… well, you decide.

I was just struck, by the way, by how ‘American Gothic’ the pair of John Hejduk houses look (see the couple of images at the end).

By the way, it’s generally thought that the best architecture photos are those taken in bright summer sunshine.  These were taken at freezing dusk in the middle of winter. It gives them a melancholy air though, don’t you think? And as an added bonus, the landscaping of much of the site reminded me of the snow-bound topiary in Kubrick’s The Shining. Oh dear.

A much fuller set of images as usual over at Flickr.

 

Firstly, the mid-rise ‘courtyard’ blocks by Moore, Ruble, Yudell:

 

The Humboldt Library at Tegel, also by Moore, Ruble, Yudell (same architects who just finished the new American Embassy in Berlin, to much thunderous indifference). Closed that day, but interiors are interesting, from the images in the IBA guide:

 

Coming to a waterside area near you, soon:

 

Below – Moore, Ruble, Yudell (left) Poly, Steinebach, Weber (centre) plus Robert Stern (right).  Quite cold now.

 

Poly, Steinebach, Weber (detail):

 

Stanley Tigerman. Really very cold by this point:

 

Paolo Portoghesi:

 

Residential terrace by Bangert, Jansen, Scholz, Schultes:

 

Antoine Grumbach (Freezing):

 

Finally, John Hejduk. See one of his other two IBA projects here.  Too cold after this to work the camera, so back to the U-Bahn: