Wohnregal: not shelved.

Talking of ‘new-style co-operatives’, cohousing, and of course my (now decade old) pet subject of the IBA, I went to meet a guy recently who was one of the founding members of a self-build project on Admiralstrasse in Kreuzberg, completed in 1986, and who is still living there. The project is “Wohnregal” (“residential shelf”) – it comprises a simple frame structure with concrete floors, onto which the residents then “placed” different configurations of apartments, each to their own specification.

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Image by Gunnar Klack, linked from the extremely useful F-IBA site, and which credits the design to Kjell Nylund / Cristof Puttfarken / Peter Stuerzenbecher

Most of the twelve apartments were built as cohousing units, although in this case they are closer to shared flats than the cohousing movement’s definition, with up to five bedrooms which share bathroom, kitchen and a central living space. They still function this way today, and include a handful of the original residents. I have described this as a form of cohousing on the basis that they’re included on the Cohousing Berlin website, but also because in spirit the whole block does seem to function very much as an intentional community. On the day I was there, many of the residents were involved in a work-day digging out and rebuilding the rotted planter boxes on the roof, which involved a lot of earth being moved six storeys down to the garden, but with kind of a party atmosphere brewing (maybe that was just me).

The construction of the block was also the first building that formed the Selbstbaugenossenschaft Berlin eG (self-build co-operative Berlin) that’s also still going strong, and is the co-op that’s building IBeB, the new mixed development on the former Blumenmarkt site opposite the Jewish Museum. Thus it also represents an early example of the re-emergence of smaller-style co-operatives – in fact, I just learned from the Internationale BauAustellung site (which I’ve only just come across, looks excellent), it was “the first housing construction cooperative for a joint new building project since 1945”. Blimey. In the whole of Germany? Doesn’t say, will check…

And as noted, above, it was also a small but important part of West Berlin’s building exhibition of the 1980s, the IBA (International BauAustellung), and forms part of a much larger housing block that was reconstructed in the same period by various architects exploring a range of different ideas about how neglected parts of the urban fabric might be rescued and reintegrated. Parts of it covered here and here, and includes the much more recent addition of the Beginnenhof – a Baugruppe apartment block for women only (and which is frequently referred to as a kind of touchstone reference by many of the older people forming part of my PhD study).

Anyhoo, back at the Wohnregal… I had half an idea (more of a researcher fantasy really) that given the age of the block, it might be occupied by many of its original residents, who I reasoned might well have aged together and now comprise a kind of unintended cohousing group of older people, maybe in their 60s. There are indeed a handful of founder members still living there, although mainly younger than that, and the block seems to have maintained a good spread of ages and different kinds of people (including some refugees in the cohousing apartment that I visited) so unfortunately (for me) it didn’t quite fit the bill.

One interesting thing that came out of the chat I had with one of the founder residents was that over the years, the cost of servicing the loans that the co-operative required to build had been quite substantial, meaning that rents had been above market rents for many years, a situation that has only changed relatively recently with the massive increases in market rents fuelled by property speculation in Berlin (and especially this part of the city).

Having said that, they are fantastic, airy, flexible apartments, which hopefully will long remain in use for the mixed, sharing crowd that currently lives there. Out of courtesy, I didn’t take any interior photos, but I did take some snaps from the roof, which is quite a view.

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architectureinberlin.com, archived

From this point back is an archive of pages I wrote as architectureinberlin.com for a few years up until 2013-ish. I stopped paying for that site (someone else has it now) so have archived all the posts here. At the time of writing, I can’t access my own Flickr account (don’t ask), so it’s still called / refers to architectureinberlin.com. Has albums with a lot of Berlin archi images used here though.

I went back to London in early 2014, where I’m doing a PhD all about groups of older people doing cohousing, initially looking at the UK, but currently some groups back in Berlin who are more established.

If you’d like to get in touch, the best email is jimhudson40 (at) gmail (dot) com. I did a spot of non-Berlin related blogging over here at betaville.

Anyhoo, I’ve stripped out a lot of the stuff about events – meetups, tours, film nights, book clubs and other things that I ran, although there’s still quite a few most recent – keep scrolling down and eventually you’ll get to some content!

At its heart this was a blog about the Berlin IBA of the 1980s – twas my obsession, and I still miss exploring the many hundreds of buildings and projects.

I’ve had to use a new theme (design appearance) to avoid paying for upkeep of an archive. It’s not very intuitive – a link to archives / search function is the horizontal lines top right hand corner. Many links are dead, highlighted in weird colours etc, sorry for that. I might get around to fixing that at some point. But probably not, life is short.

Anyway, in order to overcome some of the faulty links, here’s a summary for IBA things:

IBA ‘Neubau’ projects:

Projects at Tegeler Hafen

Block 1, including O M Ungers

Zaha Hadid and Will Alsop on Stresemannstrasse

Lützowplatz – Block 234, Mario Botta, Peter Cook and others

Down the drain at Dessauerstrasse

Peter Eisenmann, Rem Koolhaas/OMA – Haus Am Checkpoint Charlie (and a follow-up here, when the OMA block got altered).

John Hejduk, Kreuzberg Tower. Also, if you’re researching or somesuch, the campaign to stop its significant alteration a few years back (in which I played a minor but I like to believe crucial role) – first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth and finally, success!

Block 647 (Part 1)

Block 647 (Part 2) and canal stuff which includes a footbridge by Brenner & Tonon, and on the south side of the river, and a row of four fascinating townhouses, by Schiedhelm, Klipper & Partner; Pysall, Jensen & Stahrenberg; von Gerkan, Marg & Partner, and the fourth which I seem to have forgotten to name.

IBA Block 4 on Kochstrasse, by MBM (Barcelona) and others

Along Kochstrasse: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Rob Krier and others, Ritterstrasse (north and south sites, Wohnpark am Museum)

Rob Krier and others, Rauchstrasse

Block 9, towers on Wilhelmstrasse

Frei Otto and others on Rauchstrasse

O M Ungers at Luetzowplatz (now demolished)

IBA ‘Altbau’ projects:

Heinrich-Zille-Grundschule – Werkfabrik Architekten

Schlesische Strasse 1-9, ‘Bonjour Tristesse’ by Alvaro Siza and round the corner

Kottbusserdamm, Hinrich Baller and others, and Baller on Fraenkelufer (Block 70), and also a longer winding post that covers the buildings on the north of the block, as well as the Beginnenhof on the West side. Finally, a brief new post on Wohnregal, a self-build project also part of Block 70.

Housing for Elderly, Köpenicker Strasse 190-193

IBA Block 88, Kreuzberg, by Rave/Rave

IBA Berlin Flickr group

Destruction at Lützowplatz – Final (4 March 2013)

A few years back (scarily, it was 2008, how time flies) I blogged about the partial demolition of an IBA block by O M Ungers.

Sadly, as noted by Isar Steve, the remainder has now come down.

While nothing is sacred, it’s depressing when something thoughtless like this happens, especially as it’s essentially replacing much needed social housing with private luxury development (if anything actually gets built at all).

Hardt-Waltherr Hämer, 1922 – 2012 (30 Sept 2012)

Sad news that Hardt-Waltherr Hämer, the father of ‘careful urban renewal’ (‘behutsamen Stadterneuerung’) and director of the Altbau half of the IBA 1987, died on Thursday.

http://www.tagesspiegel.de/kultur/zum-tod-von-hardt-waltherr-haemer-retter-von-kreuzberg/7190412.html

Image, Karl-Robert Schütze, wikicommons

Hämer was a key player in the movement against the excesses of modernist planning of the 1960s and 70s, which in Berlin reached its nadir with the redevelopment of Kottbusser Tor in Kreuzberg.  He took the (at the time radical) view that cities could be revived by retaining the existing built fabric and working with local residents to improve their own homes and environment.   This stood firmly against the orthodoxy of the time – the scorched earth policy of urban renewal through large scale demolition and rebuilding, including major new road networks, which was of course much more profitable for investors and contractors than Hämer’s ‘slow architecture’ approach.

His much publicised and successful project to put these ideas into practice at Chamissoplatz in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district led to his heading of the Altbau element of the International BauAustellung of the 1980s in West Berlin.  The legacy of his work here was later to be largely ignored during the redevelopment of Berlin following the fall of the Wall, with rabid gentrification, displacement of long-standing communities and the general blandifying of large parts of the city.

Disappointment at Prager Platz (but enlightenment at the Technikmuseum). (6 June 2010)

A lovely evening here in Kreuzberg, sat on the balcony watching the sun go down.  My partner (soon to be wife) is off on her hen night, so what to do?  A drug-fuelled night of depravity with a group of erotic dancers?  No, it’s Saturday night, I want to do something special.  So a spot of long overdue blogging.

I was on an errand the other day (back when it was rainy and cold here in Berlin, a period that lasts from roughly October until the end of May), and this errand took me through Prager Platz, another part of – you guessed it – the 1980s IBA.  Along with the development up at Tegeler Hafen,  it stands physically apart from the rest of the IBA programme.

It didn’t help that it was cold and raining of course, but there was something distinctly underwhelming about this particular piece of urban design.  Nothing wrong with the idea; the recreation of a 19th century square using contemporary architecture.  And I’ve long become accustomed, probably too much so, to some of the PoMo excesses of the aforementioned IBA.  But I found the Rob Krier block frankly a little scary – hard to put my finger on exactly why (perhaps Tragedy Hatherley can help here, whose way with words and seemingly colossal output always put my infrequent posts to shame).  Why though is there always something of ancient Rome about Krier’s buildings, often with nightmarish almost-but-not-quite-abstract sculpture.  Something a little too unrelaxed and self-consciously odd?

I tread carefully here, because there’s architecture that I’ve not initially loved, then have subsequently campaigned to save, but architecture the like of John Hejduk’s is absent here.

Part of the problem for me is that there was nothing good round the back.  So often with IBA buildings, particularly in Kreuzberg and Luisenstadt, further to the east, you get nothing very impressive on the street elevation, but much more excitement in the interior courtyards (the Höfe, to give them their correct plural-of-Hof name).  Secret gardens, cascading balconies, wavy elevations, overgrown ruins and the like.  None of that here, perhaps because this a richer and, pre-IBA, a more developed part of town.  We’re talking West-end, Wilmersdorf/Schöneberg, and actually the strength here is the understated and pleasantly sleepy1950s domestic architecture, which is beginning to exert a strange hold on me (more about this another time, except to say that I’ve started fantasizing about living in a well-to-do part of West Berlin of this period, rather than the parts that you’re meant to fantasize about).

So anyway, onto the buildings, architects and such things.  I include this kind of detail, in the probably errant belief that it lends my blog a little depth and class.  Or whatever.

The overall idea seems to have been jointly by Rob Krier and Gottfried Böhm, with Klaus Kammann acting as Berlin contact architect for each of the buildings.

Firstly, that scary Rob Krier block (you’ll remember him, brother of Leon, who is/was architectural advisor to Prince Charles –  both brothers big noises in the why-does-it-present-itself-so-like-Scientology New Urbanism movement).

In classic PoMo style, there are elements that at a glance appear to be structural, but then obviously aren’t.  A bit like a later James Stirling building, except not as good.  Like this bracket supporting the balcony, but actually just pretending to, ho, ho.

Next, the residential block by Gottfried Böhm, an architect with a long career with some good work. But not here, to my taste at least.  It’s quirky enough, but I was strangely taken with the idea that Richard Rogers could have done the same building in a High-tech stylee (if the British High Tech folk had been interested in such lowly things as housing back in the 1980s).  Still, I noticed recently that someone had tagged my blog on Delicious as ‘ugly Berlin architecture’ (I decided to be flattered) and this will add to their collection.

What to do with all those spare tiles? Oh, I know, let’s cover the whole building with them…

…and a building by Carlo Aymonino, who, unlike Rob Krier, actually is italian, although he hasn’t included any clay pantile roofs, rusticated balconies, false brackets etc.  It’s hiding behind a tree though, for some reason:

It seems that where the shopping centre now stands, there was a plan to build a municipal leisure pool, library and an adult education centre.  I didn’t venture into the shopping centre, but it didn’t look like any of these things would be located here.  Do correct me if I’m wrong.

Perhaps I’ll return to all of this at some future point in a different frame of mind, but for the time being, inspired by the aforementioned Mr Hatherley, I’m going to press on with a longer post than usual (which isn’t saying much) by switching subject to something I do like. Nothing to do with the IBA!  Plus, all photos guaranteed to depict a sunny day.

I was cycling about round the Tempodrome recently.  It’s a permanent, concrete version of a kind of big circus tent, which previously really did exist as an actual circus venue in various locations around Berlin, once hosting an event featuring both Westbam and Einstürzenden Neubauten, which must have been good.  The Neues Tempodrome is a faint echo of the original, being given more to Coke-sponsored major rock tours than anything more leftfield. It also has the Liquidrome beneath, but you can look all this up on Wikipedia if you want.  It was built, as many such big german things are, by GMP (von Gerkan, Marg & Partner).

The flower pots are very large, by the way.  I got my girlfriend to stand next to one for scale, but don’t like to feature her in the blog, so you’ll have to imagine her standing to the right of the closer one, being about the same height as it.

More interestingly, it is built on the site, and on the remains, of the Anhalter Bahnhof, one of the capital’s largest stations before the war, but which was demolished postwar after heavy bomb damage and lack of anywhere to need to trravel to from West Berlin.  If you live in Berlin you’ll be familiar with the bit that still stands:

But on the other side of the Tempodrome, there are remains of the station platforms and tracks, which rather reminded me of a recent post by the ever-reliably interesting Charles Holland at Fantastic Journal, telling of the self-consciously hip and not-so-hip reuse of abandoned urban industrial architecture.  The difference here being  that Berlin is virtually made of this sort of thing, with far too few inhabitants to pay attention to it all.  Not quite as self-consciously a piece of ‘Architecture’ as New York’s High Line, but the Anhalter Bahnhof tracks run into a series of derelict and semi-derelict spaces which previously formed one of the largest interchanges/good yards in Europe. Remains of the platforms can be seen, with some landscaping at the ‘neater’ Tempodrome end with beds of railway gravel marking out the route of the tracks.  The whole thing is being allowed to slowly turn into woodland, deliberately I assume.

I’m slightly baffled as to how the tracks are at the same level as the Tempodrome, far above the level of the front of the station; perhaps someone can explain…

I’ve come to believe that I’ll never be able to embed Google maps, but if you look here, you can see the Tempodrome, and the site of the Anhalter Bahnhof (the white circle in a rectangle, centre top) with the goods yards and tracks running through a large site to the south, still partly empty.  But a large part of the area, including the three vast ruined turntable sheds, have been incorporated into the Deutsches Technikmuseum.

As you pass by on the main road, the very prominent (and apparently very expensive) new building of the Museum looks impressive enough.  I guess any building with a Dakota bomber hanging off it would be impressive anyway, but I’ve recently realised that structurally the whole building is something rather fantastic.  Essentially, it’s a colossal pillar in the centre, from which the rest of the building (and the aeroplane) is suspended.  You might counter that this is a rather Grimshaw-esque approach; create a structural problem and then try to solve it.  Whatever.  But it does become more apparent if you explore round the back, where they’ve done this:

It appears to be a structural frame with the columns taken away, but you’re actually seeing the bottom end of the suspension rods, holding up the floors.

It’s by Ulrich Wolff and Helge Pitz, 1995-2001 by the way.  Apparently building costs were such that when originally finished, there was no money for anything to go in it.  But I say ‘apparently’ because architect bloke down the pub told me, and you can’t believe everything he says.

I also love that from the south, only the ‘head’ of the building is visible, appearing like some vast piece of abandoned german industrial machinery.  Built on top of a bunker.  Which I can’t believe wasn’t at least part of the intended effect.

Some other images included, as there’s all sorts of other recent and less recent structures nestling in the undergrowth.  The museum itself is also well worth a visit, if you’d like to see some of this from the other side of the fence.  Plus if you get a chance before the end of June, this looks very interesting.

Rem(oved) (12 May 2010)

It’s the best title I could come up with, even though someone pointed out in a comment on an earlier post that the building I’m writing about here was designed not by Mr Koolhaas, but by his partner Elia Zengehlis, along with Matthias Sauerbruch and others, as OMA.

Anyway, last week, a new chum (who lives in the MBM-designed block behind it) showed me some ongoing alterations to the block for a new McDonalds.  Residents are apparently concernd that a terrace being constructed to the full width of the Scary Burger Clown’s frontage will place its ‘al fresco diners’ (heavy-petting burger-wielding Italian teenagers) rather close to the windows of first floor residents.  Not in any sense a good thing, but I guess architecturally neutral, as McD’s will replace a line of previous fast food outlets which in turn replaced the open space for vehicle turning that originally occupied the ground level.

This building, as regular readers might guess, was built as part of the IBA housing exhibition of 1987.

But of more concern form an architectural point of view is what seems to be the creation of a separate small commercial unit, formed by cutting a chunk out of the ground floor entrance to the apartments:

The once spacious entrance lobby is now reduced down to a narrow corridor, with the central column facing cut away and a ceiling for the commercial space inserted:

So another little piece of built history from this period eroded, a piece of architecture thoughtlessly screwed.  Did this work get planning consent?  Did anyone care?  We’ll be finding out shortly.

Success! And more… (24 April 2010)

It’s like a sort of IBA-related Christmas, Easter and birthday come at once. Early last week, a Senate Baukollegium was held, where our ‘campaign team’ was able to put its case to Senate Building Director Frau Regula Lüscher, the Mayor of Kreuzberg-Friedrichshain and others.  Robert Slinger, Florian Köhl and Matthias Reese represented the campaign.

The result, officially announced via an interview with Frau Lüscher in today’s Morgenpost, is that the building is to be restored to its original design, including its distinctive colour scheme, which is fantastic news in itself.  But in addition, the borough of Kreuzberg is keen to see the area in front of the tower properly landscaped, and even to see Hejduk’s designs for two small pavilions, Studio for the painter, and Studio for the musician, built on the site.  Both formed part of the original design, and were intended to flank the entrance route to the tower – they were actually constructed for the 1987 IBA exhibition in the Martin Gropius Bau, but are assumed not to have survived.  Images of all this to be added here shortly, in the meantime, a glimpse of the Musician from beneath the Painter (I think) at the exhibition:

Frau Lüscher goes on to say in the interview that although Denkmalschutz (statutory heritage protection) is not the right tool for protecting IBA buildings, a formal procedure is to be established for building owners proposing alterations.

Finally, links to a couple of previous Morgenpost pieces, one on the future of the IBA buildings, the other an interview with Renata Hejduk.  If you have problems reading the full articles, you can usually just google the complete headline, which allows you to bypass the charging system. Oddly.

And finally finally, I notice someone has picked out the Kreuzberg Tower complex on one of the Google-earth-bird’s-eye-view-type things, here.  Interestingly, the building immediately to the west, with a semicircular rear facade, is another IBA building, by Raimund Abraham, who sadly died just a few weeks ago.