Berlin. The possibility of absolute architecture

From at the time of the invasion of the Russian Federation into the territory of Ukraine, we іwe watch with horror the extent of the destruction of our cities і sat down How much time and effort will be required for themnot recovery and how the buildings will be rebuilt й infrastructure? World history is cyclical, and when we approach it through architecture, we feel the phantom pain of cities that have experienced a second birth. Berlin. If he was able to recover from the wounds of the Second World War, literally rising from the ashes, expanding avenues and multiplying styles, maybe we have a chance to repeat his courage and audacity?

Post-war Berlin has an ambiguous attitude to the past. Architectural past. On the one hand, there is a desire to save and restore valuable buildings that barely survived the bombings, because they were part of history, culture, and heritage. On the other hand, there is a desire to part with the memories of the regime of the old German state, which brought so much evil and suffering to people. Therefore, there was no single solution: some houses were to be demolished without pity, while others were carefully restored.

Post-war Berlin has an ambiguous attitude to the future. And construction in the German capital directly depended on the degree of freedom of the architect and the permeability of the "iron curtain". There were two completely different worlds on different sides of the Berlin Wall. When the West talked about modernism and postmodernism, socialist leaders and their followers imposed a different aesthetic.

New architecture was created both by supporters of historicism and radical modernists. Hence the fragmentary nature of the development: somewhere, buildings imitating previous eras appeared, and somewhere, sites were cleared for new ultra-modern complexes that contrasted with the surrounding urban fabric.

New architecture was created both by supporters of historicism and radical modernists

Berlin in the winter of 1945, taken by the German photographer Hein Horney

Berlin before and after. Urban planning situation, losses

At the beginning of the 1920th century, the population of the German capital was two million people. By 3,8, the city had become Greater Berlin: its population reached 30 million. Residential construction was booming, the central districts were becoming denser with narrow apartment buildings, and Art Nouveau buildings were appearing. By the 4s, the city grew to XNUMX million, and residential areas were built outside the S-Bahn ring.

At the beginning of the Second World War, 4,5 million people lived in the capital. Berlin in 1940 looks like a typical European city: a very dense grid of neighborhoods (25–28 square meters per hectare), the average building height is six stories, courtyards are very small, and houses occupy the maximum possible space between the streets.

General plan of Berlin in 1940

General plan of Berlin in 1953

Since 1941, when the air attacks on the city begin, most construction projects stop, and residential construction freezes. In 1945, Berlin lies in ruins, its population is halved, about a third of the architectural fund is completely destroyed or badly damaged.

Buildings that miraculously managed to avoid bombing (and later waves of demolition) form the historical backbone of the urban fabric and determine the future outline of the city. These are mainly houses from the period of industrialization at the end of the XNUMXth century, preserved in the districts of Prenzlauer Berg, Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain. By the way, these quarters are very popular now.

Berlin through the eyes of Soviet military photojournalist Valery Faminsky

Stages of recovery. Zero years, fifties and the birth of postmodernism

After the terror of the Nazi dictatorship and after the end of the Second World War in Germany, there is practically no civilian economy, and the infrastructure has been destroyed as much as possible. Despite the extremely difficult conditions, there is hope for revival in Berlin. And the residents give him this hope. Thanks to the enthusiasm of the townspeople and the natural, characteristic German discipline, the work on the restoration of the city has been in full swing since the first months.

Women - the so-called "trümmerfrauen" (Trümmerfrauen, i.e. "women of the ruins") took an active part in the reconstruction of the post-war city

Since many men were wounded or did not return from the war, there was a shortage of labor, as well as equipment, so women - the so-called "Trümmerfrauen" (Trümmerfrauen, i.e. "women of the ruins") - took an active part in the reconstruction of the city. Literally with their bare hands, they dismantled the rubble, checked the masonry for future use, and sent the old brick or stone to make new building materials.

After the city was cleared of ruins, the first stage of reconstruction began. During this period, Berlin was divided into four occupation sectors: Soviet (East), British (West), American (Southwest) and French (Northwest). And when the "zero years" (Germany in 1945-1949, or the occupation of Germany) ended with the formation of two German states - West Germany and East Germany, the architecture of the capital began to live according to completely different laws.

Berlin. Photo: Tiago Aleixo

East Berlin is a "more developed version" of Soviet construction. Many decisions in the GDR were made by the Soviet military administration, which was mostly based on propaganda considerations. So, according to them, the famous capital theater "Volksbühne" ("People's Stage") on Rosa Luxemburg Square, which was completely destroyed, is being restored in the shortest possible time.

For the same reason, pompous "workers' palaces" are being built on Karl Marx Alley. Gradually, in the 50s, a distinctive style was formed in the architecture of the GDR, which combines neo-baroque with elements of the Stalinist empire and neoclassicism. These gigantic buildings of Endeer times reflect the political orientation of those whose orders they were built, representing socialism as a perfect system.

The historical value of these buildings can be debated, but architectural critic Frank Peter Jäger advocates the preservation of the GDR's architectural heritage. "Architecture does not always correlate with political ethics," he argues.

Karl-Marx-Allee (German Karl-Marx-Allee - Karl Marx Alley) is a street in the Berlin districts of Mitte and Friedrichshain

West Berlin is a freer platform for experiments, uses the experience of previous generations, focuses on the practice of neighboring states, cooperates with foreign bureaus, setting the contours of post-war modernism. In the 50s, large prestigious projects appeared here, functionalism was welcomed.

The implementation of the Hanseatic quarter reconstruction project was supposed to be an opposition to socialist ideas in East Berlin

One such example is the Hanseatic quarter. The decision to build a new residential area was made in 1953, when Berlin was preparing for the International Construction Exhibition, as part of which a tender for the project was announced. It had not only cultural and economic, but also political significance, as the implementation of the project was supposed to be an opposition to socialist ideas in East Berlin.

Before the bombings, the Hanseatic quarter was a very dense development consisting of three hundred four-story buildings with dark courtyards-wells. In the center is a circular square, from which 6 radial streets diverged. During the war, the quarter was destroyed by 90%. The main criteria for the renovation were functionality and rationality.

In the process of reconstruction, the square remained a compositional accent, and in the place of a monotonous low-rise building, a variety of houses appeared: a total of 39 - both residential and public. 53 architects worked on their development, and 19 of them are star foreigners. Designed by Walter Gropius, Alvar Aalto, Oscar Niemeyer, Pierre Vago and many others. Landscape designers, sculptors, and artists participated in the development.

A house designed by Walter Gropius in the Hanseatic quarter in Berlin

Specialists avoided a high density of buildings due to the diversity of the morphology of the buildings. By increasing the number of floors, the useful area of ​​the dwelling was preserved and the space between the buildings was increased, saturating it with green spaces. This made it possible to diversify the architectural language of the building and provide residents with a wide range of atypical layouts. Now the residents of the quarter could settle in an apartment tower, a sectional low-rise complex, a townhouse or a private cottage.

They could choose between studio apartments and multi-room apartments, between two- and one-level living spaces, between a terrace, a balcony and a loggia. In addition to housing, the architects envisioned offices and administrative buildings. An Academy of Arts, a temple, a library with a summer reading room and a swimming pool were built here. In every yard or park there are unusual art objects.

On different sides of the wall

The Berlin Wall, erected in 1961, further intensified the already existing contrast of the divided city. "Spying" on West Berlin through the ARD and ZDF channels (you could catch them with a special antenna), his eastern brother dreams of the same free life: a small cozy house, a dog, well-dressed children, an open-top car and a vacation in Italy …

A fragment of the Berlin Wall

What is the difference between the architecture on different sides of the wall? Urban planners of both parts implement their own ideas about the capital. Densely populated houses of the "barracks" type, which appeared during the war, are being demolished. In West Berlin, entire streets disappear, for example, in Wedding or Neukölln, and in their place new quarters and large residential complexes of increased comfort appear on the outskirts.

Typical panel houses with flat roofs are being built in East Berlin. Later, already in the 1970s and 80s, entire microdistricts built up with typical Soviet high-rise buildings, such as the Panki district in Berlin, will appear in the country's big cities.


West Berlin and the green archipelago

In the 1970s, West Berlin experienced a protracted urban planning crisis, the population was shrinking. In fact, it turned into an island, surrounded by a wall and surrounded by enemy territory. Inside the city, there were huge pieces of empty space, where even the houses themselves seemed like isolated islands.

In response to a new challenge, in 1977 a group of architects launched a project to save the city called "Berlin - Green Archipelago". The team, led by Oswald Matthias Ungers, included Rem Koolhaas, Hans Kollhoff, Peter Riemann and Artur Owaska. They described the model of postwar West Berlin as a "city within a city" or a "city of islands."

Oswald Mathias Ungers, German architect and theorist

According to the architects, it was necessary to transform and strengthen the borders of the "islands" - those areas of the city where dense buildings still remained in heavily destroyed Berlin. In addition, Oswald Ungers advocated the development of Berlin's transport and pedestrian infrastructure and its maximum greening. In the book "The Possibility of Absolute Architecture" Pier Vittorio Aureli writes: "Ungers defined this 'green' void as a kind of double space that accommodates both extremes: an escape from urban life and an equal attraction to it."

According to this concept, overcoming the crisis of the city will be achieved not at the expense of urbanization, that is, further expansion of the city, but as a result of its compression. Salvation from the fragmentation of the surviving sections of the city is not the design of a "connective fabric", but the desire for complete autonomy of "islands in the green sea".

Fragments of a polycentric city, illustration for Ungers' 1977 manifesto "Berlin: Green Archipelago"

Based on the idea of ​​Ungers and his associates, a series of projects of architectural complexes as cities in miniature was developed. Considering the city as an alternation of built-up and empty spaces, Ungers proposes to implement this main property of the refrain of architectural projects within the city itself.

This was to limit the formal architectural vocabulary to simple geometric figures and rational but monumental forms, and diversity in architecture would be achieved through combinatorics. Ungers argued that the architectural project should be considered as a single entity consisting of typical elements.

 "Ungers defined this 'green' void as a kind of dual space that accommodates both extremes: an escape from urban life and an equal attraction to it," writes Pier Vittorio Aureli

Aureli considered this concept innovative, one that goes beyond postmodernism, and noted that such an approach by Ungers would allow overcoming the fragmentation of post-war Berlin and would give an opportunity to restore a number of important urban characteristics: collectivity, dialectics, fragmentation and simultaneous combination of heterogeneous forms. But the archipelago is not only a formal embodiment of the island system, it is also a model of the "political" idea of ​​the city, the idea of ​​conflict, contrast, opposition of its various parts, which is an integral component of their coexistence.


"Lord, help me to survive in the midst of this mortal love." Architecture of united Germany

On the plan of Berlin in 1989, we can see that its fabric is changing: modernist structures are emerging everywhere - complexes characterized by open spaces, large laconic forms that contradict the scale of the surrounding historical buildings.

In 1989, the Berlin Wall fell. In October 1990, Berlin again became the German capital, and the Brandenburg Gate became a symbol of united Germany. In the same year, on the ruins of the wall, Pink Floyd musician Roger Waters organizes one of the main rock shows of the 1991th century, and in XNUMX, the artist Dmytro Vrubel creates an equally symbolic graffiti of the era "Brotherly Kiss", which allegorically tells about the destruction of communist states and about the union of East and West.

"Lord, help me to survive in the midst of this mortal love" - ​​the inscription on the famous graffiti of the artist Dmitry Vrubel on the remains of the Berlin Wall

However, Berlin itself needed unification - not only social and political, but also urban planning. The halves of the city, which developed over forty years in isolation from each other, had to be stitched together anew, and in the shortest possible time.

In 1989, the Brandenburg Gate became a symbol of united Germany

At that time, urban planner Hans Stimmann, who in 1991 headed the building department in the Berlin Senate, became a key figure in the city's transformation process. He saw his mission as a return to the lost traditions of the European (i.e., pre-modern) city, which was characterized by densely built quarters and an intuitive system of streets and squares.

Four-story houses and courtyard-wells were typical for a medieval city

As the basis of the new urban planning policy, Stiemmann laid the concept of "critical reconstruction", developed in 1987 by the architect Josef Paul Kleihuze. Berlin was now seen as a collection of new and restored buildings in the historical urban fabric. At the same time, the new buildings strictly followed the developed regulations: the glazing area of ​​the facade was to be no more than 50% of its surface, it was necessary to use natural materials, matte surfaces of natural warm light tones in the cladding.

The maximum height to the mark of the top of the roof was taken to be no more than 30 meters, and the mark to the eaves should not exceed 22 meters. In other words, modern buildings should not be copied, but should be as close as possible to historical architecture in terms of quality.

Modern buildings in the Mitte district demonstrate how the concept of "critical reconstruction" works: buildings are integrated into the historical space according to the principle of nuance


Reconstruction and construction at the turn of the century

At the turn of the century, the capital of united Germany emerged as a modern, fashionable and at the same time human-friendly city, in which the diversity of the architectural language is organically combined with the historical urban planning context.

Residents of East Berlin began to realize their dreams of owning a house with a garden. Small residential buildings and houses for one family are appearing (Karov, Blankenburg and Buchholz districts). Old houses in the city center are being restored. Potsdam Square becomes the largest urban construction site in Europe. During the bombing, it practically turned into a wasteland. The construction provided an opportunity to completely rethink this historic site and move away from the aforementioned Stimmann restrictions.

The first automatic traffic light in Germany was installed on Potsdam Square

Potsdam Square was an important transport hub, where subway lines, tram lines, and bus routes intersected. The first Berlin train was sent from here

The winner of the competition for the reconstruction of the square was the project of architects Renzo Piano and Christoph Kohlbecker. The stylistic directions of the architectural ensemble of 19 buildings are hi-tech and art deco, which gravitate towards the neo-modernism of the 80s and 90s. Strictness, restraint, simplicity of forms correspond to the mood of the business center. Two high-rise office buildings - "Forum Tower" (Forum Tower) and "Kollhoff-Tower" (Kollhoff-Tower) serve as a kind of gateway to the square, referring to the Chicago school of architecture.

Forum Tower, Kollhoff-Tower, BahnTower on Potsdamer Platz in Berlin

After the new millennium, residential construction in Berlin slowed down significantly. Many residents left the capital. In 2003, the situation changed: the city began to grow intensively again at the expense of visitors.

In the XNUMXs, new residential buildings were built more slowly, but along with them came apartment buildings for affluent customers — prestigious but unusual buildings like Yoo in the Mitte district, Living Levels near the East Side Gallery. There was not enough budget housing again, and developers and architects thought about big projects. Typical buildings of the time are residential buildings near Gljaisdrajek Park, on the Stralau peninsula and near the East Side Gallery.

Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. Peter Eisenman's project, implemented in 2005

Architectural trends of the beginning of the 2005st century. reflected in the project of the deconstructivist Peter Eisenman. It is about the laconic and emotional Memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, realized by the architect in XNUMX. Speaking about the architectural symbols of the united Germany, one cannot fail to mention the business card of Berlin - the dome of the Reichstag, realized by the British architect Norman Foster.

The dome of the Reichstag, realized by the British architect Norman Foster

All stages of the political life of Germany affected the construction of the German capital: the confrontation between the ideologies of the East and the West, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the unification of the state

After the Second World War, the Germans faced not only the task of restoring the country's economy: they were faced with an extremely difficult political, cultural and spiritual revival of a society that had been under Nazi rule for twelve years, and then in a state of cold war. And urban planning and architecture became the protagonists of this large-scale process.

The construction of the German capital was affected by all stages of the political life of Germany: the confrontation between the ideologies of the East and the West, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the unification of the state. While preserving the structure of a European city, Berlin managed to develop the language of modern architecture. Thus, the historical trials that befell the city gave it a chance to improve its appearance.



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