Books and more books. (4 July 2010)

Back in Berlin after break (wedding and honeymoon), to discover that it’s very warm. Tried to sit down with Aldo Rossi’s Architecture of the City, but kept nodding off. Newspapers filled only with yesterday’s Germany/Argentina game. So having failed to read anything, thought I’d write about some books instead – one in particular, followed by a fairly random list of Berlin architecture-related things that I’ve been reading, as I thought you might be interested.

This all stems from my guilt at not having reviewed Berlin Urban Design: A Brief History, sent to me by Dom publishers a little while back. I was surprised to be sent further books by them, as I was lukewarm about the previous one. But this new publication is much more to my liking; a breezy canter through Berlin’s urban planning history, from its military and industrial roots up to the present day. It’s an easy read (despite a few awkward english translation moments) and a good short guide for anyone wanting a grounding in the subject.

The introduction makes the point that Berlin is very much a 19th and 20th century city. Minimal page space is given to the medieval and Baroque periods, since, despite the Berlin government’s tourist-friendly focus on rebuilding a Baroque castle and other such retro weirdness, these periods do not dominate the capital’s dominant urban history. Rather; between 1871 and 1918, it was the largest industrial city in Europe – something that you’re constantly reminded as you explore the eastern part of the city along the Spree, where Berlin’s monumental industrial remains are only slowly giving way to the offices and apartments of the ‘creative class’ (I hate this term, but as its use becomes increasingly pejorative, I use it more and more. It’s a phrase that makes you shudder, much like ‘World Class’). And important to remember also, as you cycle back late from a friend’s place out at Stralau, that these buildings existed for a purpose other than venues for dimly lit but achingly seductive techno parties.

Anyway, back at the book: the Hobrecht Plan of the 1860’s is compared in some detail with Haussmann’s Paris and Cerdà’s Barcelona projects of the same period, mounting a partial defense of Hobrecht by pointing out that the creation of high density slums was not directly the fault of the plan, which simply laid down street and overall block sizes. It did not regulate the number or quality of buildings per block, although perhaps this omission is in itself a failure on the part of the planning authorities – having been staying in Barcelona’s Eixample only days ago, it’s hard not to see the latter as far superior to the former.

The book gives short shrift to National Socialist city planning, although a reproduction of Speer’s North-South axis ground plan makes you realize just how madly destructive its enormous scale would have been, with single buildings the size of small districts, and a complete disregard for the exisiting city. (Although insensitive urban planning was possibly the least of the Nazi’s crimes.)

Greatest depth is allocated to post-Wall planning, to which I haven’t really paid much attention to be honest, save for the odd critical sneer, due to my personal obsession with the late 1970s and early 1980s and the seemingly general agreement that since the wall came down all development has been poorly planned and dominated by commercial interests. Worth noting though that there is more to Berlin’s current plans than neverending gentrification, even if it often seems that way. But most interesting to me was mention of the ‘pilot projects’ for the IBA housing exhibition of the 1980s, which the author sets out clearly as a turn away from modernism, in terms of urban development. These included “Block 118” – careful urban renewal of existing buildings at Klausener Platz, Charlottenburg, as well as similar planning around Chammissoplatz in Kreuzberg.

Berlin Urban design – A Brief History. By Harald Bodenschatz, Dom Publishers. English and German (link is to English).


Other things I’ve been reading…

Some more books:

Stadt & Haus: New Berlin Architecture in the 21st Century

Bruno Taut: Master of Colourful Architecture (not such a great title but a good book!)

Traces of Terror: Sites of Nazi Tyranny in Berlin – not for sad ‘obsessed with Nazis’ types, but a sober reflection on sites rather than just buildings.

Berlin Modernism Housing Estates (Siedlungen der Berliner Moderne) – have just realised that although the publisher sent me this rather fabulous tome, I never actually properly reviewed it. I should have done, as it’s a detailed report on the background and reasons for giving UNESCO heritage status to the six key Berlin modernist estates of the 1920s,
including the Britz ‘Horsehoe’ estate. Braun are a pretty big publisher of all things Berlin architectural, including the essential, I-never-leave-home-without-it, Berlin Architekturstadtplan (Architecture City Map), the Berlin Architecture Guide and also the annual guide to new architecture in Berlin.

Deutschlandscape/Deutschlandschaft – Epicentres at the Periphery. A book produced from Germany’s pavilion at the 2004 Venice Biennale, covering Berlin and elsewhere. Mainly elsewhere. Where it turns out there is much more interesting new architecture than in Berlin itself.

Modern Architecture In Berlin – an excellent guide by architect Rolf Rave, with a selection of 466 buildings, covered ‘briefly but informatively’, as they say, and available in all good bookshops. The kind of book that I like to flick through endlessly, frequently annoying my wife by saying “oh that’s who did that building”.

A Life In Cities – autobiography by David Mackay, of Catalan architects MBM, whose work includes masterplanning the Barcelona Olympics, and Berlin projects including IBA buildings on Kochstrasse. He graduated from the AA in London in the early 1950s and moved to Barcelona with his new catalan wife directly afterwards. A fascinating mix of personal reminiscence and commentary on cities and architecture. I notice Scotland’s RIAS, who published it, are doing them for £15 at the moment.

And my current favourite: “The Language of Postmodernism“, fourth edition, by Charles Jencks. Often unintentionally amusing (this edition is from 1987, when Postmodernism was seen as the only possible future after the death of modernism) but equally as often intentionally amusing, wry and intelligent. Found it in a secondhand bookshop, am sure you can find a copy somewhere on the web if you need one. A much later edition, which must have been losing its point somewhat, is available.

There’s lots more, but books are all in teetering stacks around the place and thus a bit confused at the moment.

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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.

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.

Anyway, 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:

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 often 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 its ‘antidote’.

I should clarify that 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. 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, and is 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 prior to the fall of the wall.

kotti_berlin

Image, Lienhardt Schulz.

Edit note July 2017: just re-reading this and all seems a bit flippant and superficial: Kottbusser Tor has been at the centre of protest and change in very recent years, and has in effect been brought back into public ownership recently, renovated, and not least has a resident-led project called Kotti & Co that is essential reading/ worth a visit.

Anyway, back at Block 70… if you look at Google maps, you can see the block bounded by Fraenkelufer to the south and Kohlfurter Strasse to the north, with buildings gradually 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 a 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.

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.

Complete photos set (including some added a few years after this post, and Gustav Peichl’s water treatment plant).

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:

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.