Within driving range.

It’s still snowing, which should mean that I’m out and about taking lots of pictures of interesting buildings covered in snow.  But I’ve decided not to venture out until spring (with the exception of the Stammtisch on 19th Jan of course) and am therefore continuing to raid my back catalogue of pics for inspiration.  Ah, memories…

Even though Berlin is now more built up than it has been for all of the second half of the twentieth century, it remains (probably) the only western capital city to have enough space to host a golf driving range in its centre.  Then abandon it.  Having already positioned said driving range within an even bigger area of post-industrial wasteland.  In turn surrounded by semi-abandoned buildings.  It’s here (the green bit roughly in the middle).

I’m never sure whether I’m exaggerating to myself here.  Is Berlin really that deserted compared to the only comparitor city that I know really well, London?  And is London really that manically full of people and things, all of them in a hurry?

Anyway, the space in question has everything; formally a vast goods yard/train-type-thing south of the Kanal from Potsdamer Platz – which you can see in the distance in some of the photos.  That sense therefore, of being in a lonely place where something exciting is happening in the distance (don’t worry – it’s Potsdamer Platz, so in fact nothing very exciting is happening).  Abandoned things.

Post blog note: have now looked this site up (via my IBA guide, at least) which shows it as the ‘Former Potsdam Goods Station’, and at the time the book was published, around 1990, still shows tracks and railway buildings.  The buildings immediately to the west, on Flotwell Strasse, were in the IBA programme as blocks 228 – 240, to be redeveloped to a masterplan by Daniel Libeskind.  It looks typically angular, shard-like and bonkers, with a single long rectangualr structure spanning the site longways (north-south) at high level, as a sort of bridge.  The IBA report notes the status as “Finance for Libeskind project open at present”.  Which is a euphemism for ‘nice idea, but no money, sorry’.

The site is just to the west of the huge abandoned train yard which served the Anhalter Station.  The train turntable sheds are now incorporated in the rather fabulous Technikmuseum – well worth a visit – and includes a vast model railway of part of the goods yards and the Anhalter station itself.

The rear end of the Bombadier company, who still make trains:

Gleisdreieck* U-Bahn station (*’Three-cornered platform’, I guess).

Apologies for poor photo quality – it was darker than it looks, I pressed the wrong buttons on the camera, and had no tripod.

It’s just occurred to me that this post, and several others preceding it, are not really about architecture at all.  Urbanism, at a push maybe.  Sorry for that.  I don’t blame you really for visiting a site called ‘Architecture in Berlin’ and complaining that it should have been called ‘Gloomy Places in Berlin’.  A host of sunlit happy buildings to be featured soon.

Guerillas in the midst (of cabbages)

A couple of weeks back there was an attempted mid-summer-night’s mass squatting of Tempelhof Airport, so we went to see how things were going, but somehow ended up behind the line of police on Columbiadamm holding back the would-be squatters.  (They weren’t physically holding them back – most of the protesters were over in the adjoining park, making happy with techno.)

The purpose of the squat (as I understand it) was to highlight opposition to the creeping gentrification of Berlin, typified in the squatters view, by the latest plans for the recently defunct Tempelhof.  Gentrification in Berlin is a subject that I’m quite confused about.  Where, I often ask myself, do all the people come from rich enough to buy all the luxury appartments which continue to spring up around Prenzlauerberg and other parts of the city? (and increasingly in Kreuzberg 36).  Is there no recession?  Does Berlin have lots of well paid jobs suddenly, rather than a problem with long term structural unemployment, aided by an ever increasing numnber of out of work actors/writers/musicians?

More thoughts on that soon, but anyway, back at the airport, where, after we’d nervously ‘entshuldigunged’ our way through the police wall from the wrong side, my girlfriend commented to me that what they really should be trying is guerilla gardening.  “Why doesn’t someone break through the fence with some gardening equipment and plant rows of carrots and such?” she said.

Now, the Tempelhof site is colossal – look at it here on Google maps, and you realise just how big.  So I don’t lie awake worrying that the whole thing will be turned into luxury housing.  Germany doesn’t have enough people who could afford that much luxury (or so I assume ).  But it does seem a shame that there’s not something a bit more radical or inspired on the cards.  The final three in the current competition are the UK’s Chora/Gross Max, Urban essences Architektur / Lützow 7 Landschaftsarchitektur*, and Graft Architekten / Büro Kiefer Landschaftsarchitektur, the latter both in Berlin.  Some links here, here and here.

There’s also an exhibition on until 10 July, 12-19.00 Uhr, at Gewerbehof Orco-GSG, Gneisenaustraße 66/67, 10961 Berlin.

*I was going to link to individual sites here, but can’t be bothered.  Architects: stop doing your sites in Flash – it’s rubbish, looks overdesigned and you can’t link to individual pages.

About 15 years ago there was a previous competition, which included a typically leftfield entry from the UK’s Will Alsop (then as Alsop & Störmer):

I’m not entirely sure what an ‘economic activator’ is, but I like the idea of a big outdoor venue, a forest, canal, city farm, and…. Schrebergartens.  Schrebergartens are part of the Berlin and wider german tradition of living in apartments but putting all the gardens together nearby.  We spent much of last weekend enjoying some of the 48 Stunden Neukölln events, but in particular these ‘Kolonies‘, some of which were open to the public just for the weekend.  I’m going to write some more on this (have been off exploring some others further afield) but not right now, as must rush, and have decided better to post short and more often than my usual habit of thinking about something for weeks then not doing it at all.

PS – was just looking for a good image from the web, and notice that someone else already has.  So read theirs (in french) until I get round to it.