O M Ungers, Block on Köthener Strasse, Berlin

One that I went searching for, and a logical place to begin an exploration of IBA buildings, as it forms part of Block no 1 (out of several hundred).

It is a most cubic building by a most cubic designer, carrying Ungers’ trademark forms of division into square grids and boxes-in-boxes. Seeing the building in planand axonometric views underlines this even more (sorry, can’t reproduce these at the moment, but am working on it – although I may be the last blogger on the web respecting copyright…).

The block is square on plan, with eight smaller sqaures forming the lower floors, then joining together on the upper levels. A courtyard (you guessed it, square) is formed in the middle, with a balcony around its edge at top floor level.

O M Ungers was undoudtedly a highly intelligent and deservedly lauded architect, and there’s much more to the apparently simple geometry on show. An obituary here (in English).

However, I have a couple of reservations from the point of view of residents.

The block is very ‘open’, without the sense of ‘defensible space’, i.e. a sense of trespassing that you feel in the shared garden areas of other blocks, such as Ritterstrasse. Perhaps this is why the courtyard contains only a solitry tree, and appears not much used by residents. To be fair the building is quite tall, and sunlight at lower levels is limited.

You also can’t help wondering to what degree the function of the building is subjugated to the need for square grids. The ‘bridge’ structures within the arches (visible in the photos) seems tucked away as if hoping not to be noticed, but are a vital part of the plan form; they connect four apartments to the corner staircases. The square panels within the archways are blanks.

Anyway, my analysis is perhaps superficial, and comes with the caveat that I’ve not spoken to residents here. So do leave a comment if you have a view!

Also, I should really pay a visit to Ungers’ court building here in Kreuzberg, (so many buildings, so little time…).

Anyway, some images, as I know that’s what you came for:


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