Berlin, 18th March 2010
Concern is growing in the architectural community at the news of an ongoing, unsympathetic refurbishment of the ‘Kreuzberg Tower’ in Berlin – a rare building by the late John Hejduk.
The ‘Tower’ – actually a suite comprising a thin, 14-storey tower set between two 5-storey wings – is one of only a handful of built works by this influential architect. Berlin has three examples, all social housing schemes built as part of the IBA 1987 international building exhibition.
The Kreuzberg Tower ensemble is typical of Hejduk’s late work, exhibiting an intense fascination with simple geometric forms, narrative mythologies and anthropomorphic symbolism. Hejduk’s three Berlin schemes bucked the colourful post-modern trends of the time with a subdued colour palette of grey and green, described by the architect as homage to the unique sky and the built fabric of the city
The present owners acquired the buildings recently as a result of a foreclosure, which followed many years of neglect. As part of ongoing refurbishment works, they have published images of the planned changes showing the removal of the distinctive sun shades over windows, enlarged balconies, and a new colour scheme in a white and bright pink, described by managers BerlinHaus Verwaltung GmbH as “tasteful living” and “apartments in Bauhaus style”. In parallel with the renovation, current tenants are being forced to move out as a result of drastic rent increases.
Doctor Renata Hejduk, the daughter of the John Hejduk and an architectural historian,, contacted the owner earlier this year to discuss the building alterations, but received only a dismissive response. She commented: “I tried everything I could to get them to stop and at least consult with the Estate and other architects who were interested in helping to preserve them. They were completely uninterested and felt their facade changes would be much better than the original.”
John Hejduk, best known as one of the ‘New York Five’ group that included Peter Eisenmann and Richard Meier, and as Dean of the Cooper Union School of Art and Architecture in New York from 1972 until 2000. .
Professor Renata Hejduk, PhD – Assistant Professor, Arizona State University, School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture.