Thursday, January 31, 2008

Aristocrats to the Scaffold



Nothing to rouse one like the return of an old adversary, and for a moment, such unlovely archicorps as Piano or Foster and their whimsically stacked trading floors suddenly seem a positively good thing. Note also the terrible decline of Berlin to the point where Prince fucking Charles approves of its urban design policy...

7 Comments:

Blogger Robert Doyle said...

"The terrible decline of Berlin"

Yes there are some bland new commercial buildings in the centre. There are also some thoughtful designs where architects have taken the constraints of the building envelope and worked wonders.

But overall Stimmann's rules have resulted in a far less ugly city than the horrors I feared would be unleashed when speculative developers were busy announcing plans for every site during the "gold rush" period post-unification.

They are also a lot better than the atrocious schemes that the DDR regime had been happy to sanction for hard currency in the late 1980s.

However, I think there is an interesting argument as to whether Stimmann was right to accept the political imperative of the early 1990s and adopt a planning agenda that sought to completely remove most spatial memory of the wall and its surrounding paraphernalia.

Having read Koolhaas lauding other architects (Alsop, Libeskind and Kollhoff) "who could work with the destruction that was the essence of Berlin", I find the intellectual arrogance of many of the superstar architects deeply worrying.

There was an obvious desire among most Berliners for a clear visual expression of the reuniting of their city. I can understand why the consensus was against buildings which ignored function and streetscape in order to create an architectural rhetoric to memorialise 40 years of division.

Does this mean that I am now part of the Prince Charles tendency???

11:25 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"verhärmter Strenge"; "aesthetischer Frackzwang". Aye, that about sums it up. Haggard austerity, houses in suits. Many of these buildings manage to look remarkably like the late 19th-century Gründerzeit tenements that were given newer and cheaper facades (i.e. none) in the cash-strapped 60s and 70s.

But: look at the more "daring" efforts in the New Berlin. The prime cut, Potsdamer Platz, is a place no sighted person would choose to visit more than once. And Libeskind's Jewish Museum must surely be the most effortfully uninhabitable building in this city. (Saying that it symbolises homelessness hardly counts as an excuse.)

w. (a qlipoth)

12:21 am  
Blogger owen hatherley said...

There was an obvious desire among most Berliners for a clear visual expression of the reuniting of their city.

Really...? I'm not so sure that's so obvious, seeing as Wessis and Ossis still seem as firmly entrenched as ever. Also, the expression of the holes and divisions didn't have to involve aesthetes showing off, and even then would have been preferable to this simulation of a unity that never existed in the first place. Berlin (and London) isn't Paris, wasn't built as a homogeneity or unity, and it's both philistine and politically dubious to act as if it were.

I am a bit torn on this though - the anti-signature/superstar position is all well and good, but did it have to be this bland? The 80s IBA stuff in the West had a similar filling-in-the-holes intent, but wasn't as mind-bogglingly tedious as the stone pomposity that Stimmann favoured. It's not even Grunderzeit: actually it resembles this particularly dubious style. Potdamer Platz is just as bad, but really it's more the Stimmann style stacked than some new departure.

4:35 pm  
Anonymous CS Ferguson said...

That image looks remarkably like Glasgow along the M8 motorway just south of Charing Cross.

http://www.iht.org/motorway/m8charing.jpg

http://www.google.co.uk/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=north+street,+glasgow&sll=54.162434,-3.647461&sspn=9.375015,29.882813&ie=UTF8&ll=55.864174,-4.270592&spn=0.004383,0.014591&t=k&z=16&om=0

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7:40 pm  

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