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.
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.)
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)
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.