john hejduk, berlin tower, social housing 1988

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    kreutzberg tower and garden apartments, social housing, IBA, charlottenstrasse, berlin 1988.
    architect: john hejduk, 1929-2000.

    this photo is from a 2006 trip to berlin.

    news of the defacement of hejduk's IBA housing project is hardly news anymore. it has been all over the internet how a new owner has had the facades redesigned . I read it first on lebbeus woods' blog which focused on how the project is no longer social housing and where the project once again provoked negative response. clearly, this is a difficult house to like. my own comment went like this,

    "so many words. how many have been to see the house?

    I went there years ago. I had studied the project beforehand and I didn’t like it one bit. the postmodernist imagery, the symmetry. it seemed so hostile, formal.

    when we arrived after hours of seeing the modernist hits and misses of berlin, we were bowled over by the humanity of scale and the poetry of the place. the courtyard garden was wonderful, if somewhat in need of care. wild rabbits were running around between the buildings. but it is exactly the relaxed atmosphere that makes berlin so much more attractive than other german cities.

    it struck me that the apparent formality of the plans represented a kind of precision: the relationship between the two housing wings and the courtyard they flank seemed perfect, it was a true social room for the people living there, not some urban in-between. ground floor flats opening onto it. it was wonderful.

    and the tower…it is tiny tiny tiny. just one flat per floor, if I remember the plans. it told the story of a very different but equally valid way of urban life: of isolating yourself from the drama of it, keeping it at arms length, staying aloof. at the same time, it was too small to have the problems of typical tower blocks.

    when I returned some years later, it was clear that maintenance was an issue. more rabbits too, but that is hardly the most threatening thing you can come across in european social housing. the poetry of the place was still as striking but with the decay, maybe it became a little clearer that hejduk had drawn on some collective recollection of workers housing for an emotional response. well, it worked for me.

    social housing or not social housing, that is a question of politics. use of will always change and then change again and again. but some buildings are worth keeping, including their significant details and surfaces…this was one.

    the basic quality of the spaces hejduk created will remain, I think, the scale of the place too – and they represent no small achievement on behalf of the architect, but the poetry is lost."

    it seems that the internet debate over the fate of hejduk's tower has since made the owners hesitate and that they are willing to negociate about their destructive refurbishment.

    see more here including the new purple balconies...

    this photos was uploaded with a CC license and may be used free of charge and in any way you see fit.
    if possible, please name photographer "SEIER+SEIER". if not, don't.

    victortsu, Mejia#8 [sick], paikan1449, and 50 other people added this photo to their favorites.

    1. scleroplex 61 months ago | reply

      amazing the type of people who go into real estate

      like the japanese who destroyed a frank lloyd wright hotel

      when money is all that you value, these happen

      like the people who threw a bugatti into a lake to avoid customs duty

      in india such people are called vyaparis and no one asks them their opinion on culture

    2. schromann 61 months ago | reply

      this is such a great image of this structure. I am very curius to see how the investor deals with the public resonance to the refurbishment plans......

    3. scleroplex 61 months ago | reply

      the petition site is closed

    4. seier+seier 61 months ago | reply

      bharani, I hope that was one of the new bugattis and not a real one!

      there is a facebook group here,

      I think it is a good idea to enlist if the owners are as sensitive to online pressure as it appears.

    5. scleroplex 61 months ago | reply

      the bugatti was thrown into the lake 70 years ago

      someone recently fished it out + it was auctioned as is

    6. seier+seier 61 months ago | reply

      I see the cheating owner was an architect :)

    7. scleroplex 61 months ago | reply

      oh oh!
      missed reading that part...

    8. 61 months ago | reply

      Thanks for uploading this - agreat image. I had forgotten to mention, when writing about the building, the small scale of the whole design. People perhaps see images and imagine it to be twice the size, and therefore something completely different.

      The campaign continues... latest press release is here:

      Also lots of info at SLAB

      Thanks again


      PS, I started a Flickr group for buildings of teh Berlin IBA if you'd like to add this and your other IBA shots:

      [] - I really need to sort out all the tags, photos etc!

    9. seier+seier 61 months ago | reply

      thanks j.h.

      it has been great following your campaign. I hope the final results will live up to your early and promising success :)


    10. Tim Brown Architecture 60 months ago | reply

      I've always loved the building. From the time I encountered it via Hejduk's drawings, and even more so, when I finally saw it firsthand. Compared to the housing seen in Chicago at the time it was like a fresh breeze of whimsy and delight.

    11. seier+seier 60 months ago | reply

      amazing really, that he was able to do social housing without compromising his personal language of architecture

    12. Matthew-1 60 months ago | reply

      Beautiful photograph.
      I always liked the work of Hejduk.
      He was a kind of poet / architect.
      His books are perhaps his masterworks.

    13. seier+seier 60 months ago | reply

      I'll have to return to his books. I was only really convinced when I saw his berlin work. poetry in social housing is no mean feat, believe me :)

    14. Elio-X 60 months ago | reply

      so postmodernist, and full of shadows... not my style, but i like it

    15. seier+seier 60 months ago | reply

      this was one of the buildings that taught me what could be done in postmodernism...or what could have been done - the postmodernists didn't seem to see it themselves.

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