Film Night: Berlin Babylon, Wednesday 5th December (2012)

Am very excited that Hubertus Siegert, director if the 2001 documentary film Berlin Babylon, will be joining us for a screening of his film, with a chance to chat about it afterwards.

The doc follows many of the key architects and other players in the ‘euphoric’ first wave of Berlin’s reconstruction in the late 1990s, including Renzo Piano, the late Günter Behnisch and others as they muse on the business of reconstructing huge areas of the city from scratch.

Plus it’s got a soundtrack composed by Einstürzende Neubauten, which you can’t say about many architecture documentary films. Or indeed most films.

As usual, 7.30pm at Hudson’s Cafe, Schönleinstr 1.  Be punctual, as we want to have some time at the end!

Archi Book Club, 21st November – The Lure of the City: From Slums to Suburbs (27 October 2012)

On Wednesday 14th November, I’ll be taking part in a panel discussion entitled “The Triumph of the City?“, a satellite event of  the Battle of Ideas event earlier this month in London.

One of the other panelists, Alistair Donald, is co-editor of a recent book of essays  – The Lure of the City: From Slums to Suburbs, so I propose to do this as our book club book for the following week, by way of a tie-in.

Book club will be at 7.30pm at Hudson’s Cafe, Schönleinstr 1.

Koolhaas – HouseLife (27 October 2012)

Have decided to do this on Tuesday (30th October), to avoid a Wednesday clash with Halloween, but also with an event at the AdK.  So a chance to see HouseLife, the documentary about the Rem Koolhaas-designed private house in the south of France.

Unlike most archi docs, HouseLife follows a week in the life of a starchitect design through the eyes of its cleaning lady, as well as a number of other people tasked with cleaning its inaccessible glazing and attempting to fix the never-ending leaks.

As usual, 7.30pm at Hudson’s Cafe, Schönleinstr 1.

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

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.

Tour of the Hufeisensiedlung (9 May 2012)

The tour cancelled in June now rescheduled for 2pm on 22nd July.  All other details the same:

Ben Buschfeld and his wife Katrin Lesser (www.katrin-lesser.de) conduct private tours of the estate; Katrin is a landscape architect; her great-grandfather was Ludwig Lesser, a luminary in the field.

Length 1-1/2 to 2 hours, cost €7 per head, departing on foot from U-Bahn station Parchimer Allee at street level, on the corner of Parchimer Allee and Fritz-Reuter-Allee.

The tour will hopefully conclude with a visit to Taut’s Home (www.tautes-heim.de), designed by Bruno Taut and faithfully restored with furnishings of the era. This is a holiday flat, so if that property happens to be occupied, Ben will show us around his private home — also designed by Taut — and show photos and documentation of the Taut’s Home renovation.

Max 20 participants. In the event of poor weather we’ll reschedule.

If interested, let me know via Facebook, or jimhudson40 (at) googlemail.com

Markthalle IX, and designs on Spreeufer. (19 Sept 2011)

You’ve doubtless noticed that my blogging days are largely gone, at least for the foreseeable future, due mainly to a rather intensive (and I guess self-imposed) day job.  But I reserve the right to occasionally post something catching my eye.

I’m a local sort of person these days, but luckily the location of this locality is, in my opinion, by far the most exciting bit of Berlin that there is. Markthalle IX, one of the city’s many fine late 19th century market buildings, is being resurrected as of the 1 October; the market group has taken on urbanist-happening architect folk Raumlabor, who have much good stuff about it on their site.

Anyhoo, before that, there’s an exhibition at the Markthalle building all this week, running up to a discussion forum and public vote on Saturday, run by Spreeufer für Alle, and showing a range of alternative proposals to the mainly crushingly dull office developments that are likely to actually be built as Mediaspree.

What was the other thing… oh yeah – also a part of Experimentdays11 this week is the Wohnprojektborse at the DAZ, showcasing* 20 cooperative projects along the Spreeufer. You could join one if you have the cash.

*I hate this word, but it’s late, I’m tired and it sounds better than just ‘showing’.

New kid on the block. (2 June 2011)

In recent days, I’ve done little but run the cafe*, make and deliver cake, which means that I don’t get out and about to see  architecture in far flung parts of Berlin much.

*although hardly single-handed, as my wife would be quick to point out.

Moritzplatz, however, is where I deliver cake twice a week; one drop-off at the co-working space Betahaus, the second at the cafe deep inside the former industrial block / now shared art workshop-space / home of the fabulous Ritte Butzke club, that is Aqua Carre.

Anyway, most Berlin architects will be familiar with Modulor, the suppliers of everything an architect needs to to sketch and model their creations. As well as providing useful boards and clips for making our cafe menus. Modulor is about to move into its new and highly ambitious premises on one corner of Moritzplatz (well ‘edge’ really – it’s a roundabout).  It’s to be called Planet Modulor, and as well as hosting Modulor’s own expanded premises, will also have many other occupants including a publisher, a bookshop, bakery, gallery and cafes. I notice that Dan Borden has just written about it in his regular archi column in ExBerliner, so I won’t repeat his fine words, but instead post some pictures of when the building was under construction.  Grand opening on 13 – 16th June, apparently.

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The building retains the concrete frame of the former Bechsteinhaus with additional insitu cast concrete.  What made me smile was that the cast concrete is then being clad in a special cladding which makes the building appear to be made of… precast concrete.  Telling fibs to tell the truth, or whatever it was Mies claimed when the ‘Elf and Safety made him put fire protection over a steel frame, which he then covered in fake steel beam casings. Or something. (I’ve never really been much interested much in the ‘Greats’ of modernism and their attendant mythologies.)

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I like the panelling though, so that’s alright.

Directly across the road from this piece of cool neo-brutalism is the fabulous Prinzessinengarten, a temporary garden-come-city farm growing all sorts of interesting things, on the landlord’s proviso that everything can be moved on within a few weeks, hence everything, including many of the trees, are in large planters.  Before the war, a Wertheim department store stood on the site, a signifier that this was once the major retail hub of this quarter of Berlin, never rebuilt, since (as anyone who’s sad enough to have read major portions of this blog will know) this end of Kreuzberg became something of a backwater when the Berlin effectively made it into a peninsula, on the edge of nowhere much. Immediately north of Moritzplatz was a major crossing checkpoint, now occupied by a used car lot and, naturally, a branch of Lidl.  The U-Bahn continued to run through Moritzplatz, but ran non-stop through East Berlin, with stations in the east closed off and guarded.  Strange times.

(Image is of the department store. Not of Lidl.)

Apropos of nothing much, I’ve just come across the image below, while I was looking for the ones above, which I took last summer.  Because Berlin is built on a swamp, every new building with a basement needs to pump water out of the construction site around the clock, hence the enormous pink and blue pipe systems that you still see running down the streets.  In the case of Modulor, they needed to run them round Prinzessinen’s perimeter for some reason, whilst still maintaining access, which led to some fabulous moments like this (now long gone, sadly)

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So it’s all going on at Moritzplatz, basically – I recommend going to check it all out.  And remember that you heard it here, er, second.