The deteriorating architecture:
After a day of snow, rain, thunder, and lightning yesterday, we took advantage of the sunshine and walked back to the site this morning. Turns out, the Musikschule is only a couple of blocks away from our apartment.
Berlin definitely has a quality of age; a quality worth exploring by walking rather than taking the U-Bahn. It’s hard to imagine that anything was ever new; even post war buildings have chipped stucco or rusted gates. The wispy plants and gray light seem to capture a sense of something that once was, as if the city commemorates the past by encouraging decay. It is temporal change, and within it a description of nature and evidence that life has happened.
This appearance of deterioration is very suiting for the city, though. It’s another added texture and color that appears as though it was it was intended right from the initial design. Not only is the architecture in Berlin literally behind all of the grundge and rust, like in this photo of the back of the site, but it is composed of exactly those things.
And for some reason, I have an infatuation with rust.
The hidden architecture:
The entire day was spent in studio. In the afternoon, I noticed that all of the blinds were pulled across the windows, having been that way since we’ve arrived. I walked over and slid one window’s blinds open, revealing a rod-iron spiral staircase. From my vantage point in our studio, set about a meter below eye level, the spiral staircase looked infinite and quite wonderful despite its location in the back lot of an apartment building.
I guess if anything, I like to think that I found appreciation for this hidden staircase. It wasn’t flaunting its design. I’m willing to bet that these hidden design pockets would slowly reveal themselves all around Berlin. For instance, even that one orange window frame changes the entire impression of the lot outside of studio.
It’s only fitting that I find something extrordinary in our own back yard, considering my class was so wrapped up in getting the site model done, that we did no further exploring today. But, I suppose there are more of both types of days to come.
The distinct architecture:
Besides a clear distinction of modernist architecture as post-war, the pre-war buildings break down even further in their distinctions. Today, being the first day of class for my semester in Berlin, was a dumping of information by our Professors. Assigned is a library for the district of Mitte, or the center of Berlin. Existing at the site is one branch of the Fanny Hensel Musikschule, which before WWII was a high school building called “Kollnisches Gymnasium” in the Neo Classical Style and three times its current size.
My studio Professor, Joachim, told the group that the exterior material of a post war building ascertained its stand on privacy. Brick buildings were public buildings, while buildings with a stucco exterior were private, typically residential, buildings. The adjacent photo is from a fourth floor window of a piano performance room in the Musikschule. I wanted to focus on this photo because not only does it describe the brick that deems the Musikschule as open to the community, but the glass was a double pane system that looked original to the building. I was also struck by the golden light that illuminated a tree in what is our building project site, considering I keep hearing how rare sunshine is in Berlin.
Stucco doesn’t seem like a building material that would be common in the Northern climate of Germany; I think of it as adobe in New Mexico for example. Professor Rolf explained that with the invention of the steam engine and factories, much of Berlin’s residences came from mass produced stucco pieces. This use of pre-fab materials also explains the repetition and exact window sizes on many pre-war apartments.
With this distinction of materials, the envelope of my library and Musikschule addition will have to communicate with the historic while also relating to the pre-fabricated social housing projects in the neighborhood. And so it begins.
The layered architecture:
It is our first full day in Berlin, having arrived yesterday morning and adjusting to the jet lag. We left the apartment slightly after 10 this morning, walking north towards Museum Island. Exploring enough to get a sense of our apartment’s surroundings was the main objective.
We passed the Berliner Dom, which soon became a point of reference as we moved around the area. The massive church stayed in sight, appearing in every opening an alley brought. It was on our way to the Deutsches Historiches Museum that I became aware of a layering of architecture within the city. Given the history of Berlin, there is a joining of pre-war and post-war building, both styles which can be seen at the same time given this consistent layering of architecture.
One method of layering, as exhibited by the Deutsches Historiches Museum was through the use of curtain wall. The transparency of the glass literally let me see through the modern facade of the museum to the older building next to it, essentially viewing both architecture at the same time.
Another method was more spatial, involving the layering of building masses. In this sense, as I walked the city, I was conscious of the buildings I was passing while also keeping track of those in the distance, like the Berliner Dom. I also noticed that the same curtain wall of the museum acted in a more reflective manner once outside, rather than transparent. The reflectivity allowed me again to view the modern while still seeing the surrounding architecture.
South American Affairs
When I travelled to Chile in 2009, I met Carolina at the airport in Atlanta. We had both missed our connecting flight to Santiago. Years later, and still in correspondence across countries, Carolina requested I design her wedding invitations for her vintage inspired nuptials.