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.

134_Kjell_Nylund_Cristof_Puttfarken_Peter_Stuerzenbecher_Wohnregal_Admiralstr_Foto_2012_Gunnar_Klack1-550x619

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

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.

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).

He’s not dead, he’s just resting…

I’d be the first to admit that I’m not always the most frequent of bloggers, and I could come up with all sorts of excuses for this, but I’m guessing that your time is short.  I will however just casually mention that I’ve just finished cycling from Vienna to Dresden, and therefore

a) there was not much time for blogging, and

b) wireless reception was poor in the Czech Republic, plus it’s hard to balance a keyboard on bike handlebars.

So just a quick one, to promise that I will write some proper posts shortly (I returned home to find that a publisher has sent me a whole pack of goodies, which I’ll be reviewing here as soon as I’ve read them) and to post an image sent me a while back from Pedro in Porto.  It shows part of Alvaro Siza’s Bonjour Tristesse project, a part of Berlin’s 1987 IBA programme; Siza planned the whole block, which includes two other new structures, as well as the more familiar corner building.

I’m a big fan of Siza’s work, which generally comprises beautifully proportioned white buildings standing in perpetual southern european sunlight, like this one:

(image thanks, OunoDesign)

Whereas here in the Haupstadt, his design has been ‘Berlinified’, courtesy of the youth of Kreuzberg:

They’re not Kreuzberg youth in the picture by the way – it’s an old folks’ day centre (although the old lady pictured appears to be stealing a chair, rather than going for a chat about the old days).  It’s on Falckensteinstrasse, and there’s a very good ice cream parlour next door, if you’re out this way.  Obviously don’t forget to look at Bonjour Tristesse itself, which is out of shot to the right.

Out of town.

In London at the moment, with a bit of time to spare. So cunningly, before leaving Berlin, I put a pile of recent images I’d taken onto a disk, in order to edit and upload from here.

A shame then that I left the disk on the table in the flat in Berlin. Arse.

So instead of a blog about a trip to the IBA buildings at Tegel on a freezing winter evening, or another one about the demolition of a building near me on the Ufer which is being replaced with something ghastly, or an update on ‘Carloft’, just a bit of random wittering.

My girlfriend uploaded the Tegel pictures she took; here are a couple, to keep you distracted from this post’s lack of real content:

Tegel is the north westerly part of Berlin, a quite posh part in fact, and rather beautiful on the day we visited. Tegel (or to be more accurate, the borough of Reinickendorf) seems to be twinned with Greenwich (in southeast London, not New York) which sort of makes sense. The main promenade features London street signs and a red phone box. Curiously, both areas have large scale construction from the eighties – the former being the money-fuelled blandless of Canary Wharf, the latter being the IBA-fuelled madness of postmodernism. More on this when I get home and upload all the images.

We had no idea that the lake and harbour would be completely frozen, with skaters and assorted winter sports.

What else?

Oh yes – following my recent rants about the reconstruction of the Schloss (see ‘All Just A Facade’), I came across a good site here, summarising items in the press about it (some in english), and also ‘Kein Schloss in meinem Namen‘ (No Castle in my name) – a petition against it. You put your protest photo in, it’s cool. Not sure if I can add mine, as I’m not german, so it’s not strictly speaking ‘in my name’ at all. I pay taxes to Berlin though (any thoughts, readers?).

I note from the Schloss’s fundraising newspaper that, bizarrely, the apparently-not-dead Henry Kissinger is backing the Schloss scheme and attending fundraising dinners. Judge your enemies by the friends they keep, to misquote a phrase. In fact, it’s like hearing that Albert Speer is still knocking around, and has thrown his weight behind the construction of a new triumphal arch. (Weirdly, Albert Speer’s son, also named Albert Speer, is still around, and is an architect. You’d change your name, wouldn’t you?)

Right, off to look at London things now.

BERLIM: Reconstrução Crítica

Just back from a very rewarding conference in Porto on “Berlin: Critical Reconstruction“, an event covering, well, just about everything I’m interested in here Berlin.

Speakers included Alvaro Siza Viera, together with other architects who have built, or competed to build, in Berlin, as well as film makers, planners and commentators.

A big question was whether ‘Critical Reconstruction’, i.e. the carefully planned and controlled reconstruction of post-wall Berlin established largely by J P Kleihues through the International Building Exhibition of the 1980s, is now dead.  Strong arguments were put that this was the case – that Critical Reconstruction as a policy had worked when money was pouring into Berlin in the 1990s, with investors and architects having to bend to the will of the city authorities, but is now failing, due to the city’s current desperation to attract any construction investment, however gaudy the proposals.  Understandably, this theory was rejected by those representing Berlin’s planning authority.

It was interesting to hear Siza refer to ‘rich IBA’ and ‘poor IBA’ rather than the official ‘Neubau’ and ‘Altbau’ labels, referring, I guess, to the fact that much of the Altbau work was in the much poorer district of Kreuzberg, as opposed to the Neubau townhouses across in Tiergarten. (For examples compare Siza’s own Bonjour Tristesse block with the buildings at Rauchstrasse.)

I could write for hours on the whole thing, but will resist doing so as I don’t want to deter any readers not passionate about architectural theory.  Instead, will just mention what a beautiful city Porto is, and that in the short period I was there I just had time to see Rem Koolhaas’s spectacular Case da Musica, as well as the finely crafted new metro stations (by Siza’s partner Eduardo Souto de Moura).

The venue for the conference, by the way, was Siza’s own building for the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art.

Need to upload the images I took shortly, in the meantime have stolen a couple from z.z on Flickr.  Actually, well worth a browse: http://flickr.com/photos/89707735@N00/sets/.

One of the Metro stations, Casa da Musica, Serralves Museum:

I went on a tour of Rem’s Dutch embassy here in Berlin last week, by the way, so a post on that forthcoming, with lots of comparisons with his Porto building.