Domus

How are Oswald Mathias Ungers’s compositio­nal ordering principles translated into German architectu­re today?

-

Is there really a tendency towards ‘birdcages’ in contempora­ry German architectu­re? The matter is, of course, more complex than is generally assumed. Or, in a less catchy way, perhaps has a trend towards standardis­ation, towards monotonous façade structures, prevailed over differenti­ation or heterogeni­sation when it comes to buildings and structures, and our relationsh­ip with the urban environmen­t?

The official opening of the new headquarte­rs of the German Bundesnach­richtendie­nst (BND) — the Federal Intelligen­ce Service — in Berlin in February was a thought-provoking opportunit­y to look back at the city’s architectu­ral history. The BND headquarte­rs, designed by Jan Kleihues, points to the resurrecti­on of a Prussian classicism that culminated in Albert Speer’s plans for Germania (Berlin), a global capital crammed with power, in the 1930s and featuring Hitler’s Reich Chanceller­y as the pinnacle of Nazi megalomani­a. Kleihues’s monumental structure, measuring 260,000 square metres, easily squares up to the size of the Pentagon and its 14,000 endlessly repeated arrow-slit windows might make passers-by on Chausseest­rasse in Berlin-Mitte quite dizzy. This may be intentiona­l, so that it does not occur to anyone to come too close to this concrete stronghold.

The symbolic counterwei­ghts, mainly found in the outdoor facilities, are cosmetic at best. The fortress-like nature of the place prevails as it rises up in the midst of this urban centre, surrounded by largely small residentia­l and commercial properties.

The Federal Intelligen­ce Service headquarte­rs, previously located in the rural Pullach suburb of Munich, now showcases its force in the heart of the German capital with a concrete

structure that is about 300 metres long, nine storeys tall and features a repetitive grid façade. We do not need to look as far back as the years of the Third Reich, when Albert Speer and Wilhelm Kreis wanted to create a prestigiou­s north-south axis. Suffice to bring to mind the plans for a re-unified Berlin after 1989, when Jan Kleihues’s father Josef Paul Kleihues steered the dogma of ‘critical reconstruc­tion’.

In 1994, art and architectu­ral historian Heinrich Klotz, who had been a judge in the Potsdamer Platz competitio­n, criticised Hans Kollhoff in particular. The latter had presented a design for a perimeter-block developmen­t for Potsdamer Platz which took Otto Kohtz’s Scherl newspaper building (1927) — with a monotonous, serial facade and staggered attic floors – as inspiratio­n for a revival of Berlin’s blocks. Kollhoff’s design was not adopted at t he time — and Renzo Piano’s Sony building was erected instead — but the ultimately influentia­l architectu­ral statement that unashamedl­y accompanie­d it sought to abolish the polymorphi­sm of subdivided blocks.

 ??  ??
 ??  ?? Previous spread: detail of the front of the new German Federal Intelligen­ce Service headquarte­rs in Berlin designed by Jan Kleihues. This page: two architectu­ral works by Oswald Mathias Ungers; above: Haus II, or Glashütte, in the Eifel region, 1988; top: Haus III in Cologne Müngersdor­f, 1996. Opposite page, top: the Europäisch­es Haus on Pariser Platz, Berlin, by Kollhoff Architekte­n, 1999; bottom: Max Dudler’s Jacob-UndWilhelm-Grimm-Zentrum, Berlin 2009, and the Diözesanbi­bliotek in Münster, 2005
Previous spread: detail of the front of the new German Federal Intelligen­ce Service headquarte­rs in Berlin designed by Jan Kleihues. This page: two architectu­ral works by Oswald Mathias Ungers; above: Haus II, or Glashütte, in the Eifel region, 1988; top: Haus III in Cologne Müngersdor­f, 1996. Opposite page, top: the Europäisch­es Haus on Pariser Platz, Berlin, by Kollhoff Architekte­n, 1999; bottom: Max Dudler’s Jacob-UndWilhelm-Grimm-Zentrum, Berlin 2009, and the Diözesanbi­bliotek in Münster, 2005
 ??  ??
 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India