Friday, June 11, 2010

Architectural Adventures...Day 1 + 2

Our first two days we have been touring on foot to building near our apartments. Although Berlin is not organized on a city grid, I would say we have traveled about 6'blocks'. I enjoy the radial streets centered on the old plazas (BrandenBurg gate + Bahnhof Porsdamer Plaza) and the winding streets creating nodes. There is a various mix of classical and contemporary buildings that reveals Berlin’s history celebrating the relationship between the past and present. Because Berlin is not organized off of a city grid, the buildings become landmarks for navigation rather than street names. It is evident that they value architecture as a culture; both as a structure and landscape. I find that the Germans especially value their exterior civic spaces.

Day 1:

Another interesting thing I have found about the German’s is their relationship with their government. On the first day we visited the government buildings which includes the Chancellery, the Federal Snake, the Embassies (Brittish + French + American), Fire/police stations, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, and Reichstag (Parliment building). I enjoyed the courtyard of the Chancellery and the approach it provided for its people within the urban landscape. It is not represented as the ‘power’ above the people as the White House appears. It is a part of the German's everyday life; where they feel involved and aware of their government’s legislative decisions. You also see this occur in the Reichstag, which is there parliament building where from base of the glass dome roof reveals the parliamentary seats. Visiting the Reichstag was my favorite event of the day because it offered a beautiful evening view of the city from the glass dome by Norman Foster.
I have always appreciated the work of Norman Foster for its intricate details and light glass structures. I also enjoyed learning the history of the Reichstag which was destroyed in WWII. The glass dome included a 400m spiral ramp that featured a 360 view of the city. I listened to an audio tour as a walked along the ramp to learn the history and significance of the surrounding buildings.

Day 2:

Today we saw more contemporary buildings, which fit my taste a little better than some of yesterdays. Although I am inspired more by the contemporary style buildings; I still appreciate the historic classical and modern buildings for the story they unfold. Anyways, we started off the day with visiting the BrandenBurg gate. The plaza was bordered with some of the Essemblies, the DG Bank (Gehry), and the Academy of Art (Behnisch). Out of all the buildings, it was interesting to see Gehry have a building that actually preserved the existing urban fabric. It is decently on of his more conservative works, but the true Frank Gehry was revealed in the interior atrium space which held the conference hall.
Although I am not a big Frank Gehry fan, this is my favorite out of his works that I have seen because his organic form existed as an inhabitable structure which was designed better for the human scale. The contrast between the building’s reserved presence surrounding the atrium and the organic structure in the center were complementary (distinguishing a difference of style, material, and program). His other works are completely form based with very little attention to the user’s experience and the building’s interior.

Adjacent to the DG Bank was Behnisch’s Academy of Art. Behnisch is one of my favorite German architects and it was exciting to visit one of his works in person. The images will speak for themselves.
His attention to detail and collision of geometries was fascinating to experience. Whether big (curtain wall) or small (railing connection), it was well thought through and represented. We also visited the Holocaust Memorial which I have been viewing from my apartment window. I actually first experienced the memorial last night and it was kind of creepy at night because you disappeared in the large concrete blocks just waiting for someone to pop out and scare you. It was much more experiential during daylight.
I don’t really understand Eisenmen’s intentions behind the design, but I appreciate it for what it symbolizes. The various masses of the concrete blocks represent all of those who were killed during the period of Hitler’s concentration camps. The increasing depth of the blocks the rolling landscapes allows one to become displaced from their surroundings, which offers a time of reflection.
The two places I enjoyed the most today was the Philharmonie (Hans Scharoun) and the Sony Center (H.Jaun). We got an extensive tour of the Philharmonie (Symphony Hall) in which I found fascinating. Scharoun designed the Philharmonie with the many influences from nature because he believed that nature coexists with music. The Philharmonie offered a lyrical experience that moved you throughout the space. There was no over organized circulation, structural system, or strategic methods to this building. Everything existed as a living form that was inspired by nature and music with a high concentration on how we, as living creatures, would react and move within that space. He saw his building as an extension or enclosure of nature. I was really inspired by the attention he gave to the user and the use of the space.
When we actually entered inside the symphony hall I was amazed. As our tour guide began to explain all of Scharoun’s design scheme to preserve pure acoustics from every individual seat I became even more impressed. He wanted everyone that visited the hall to have the same quality of acoustics. The symphony seating is not organized as your traditional symphony hall. The audience surrounded the stage where the orchestra could be seen from all angles; allowing the audience to become intimately involved with the performance. In America, the seats would be organized according to social classes, giving the rich the best seats and the poor the worst. Scharoun made every seat equally valuable; where everyone was welcome to attend and enjoy the orchestra play. The Sony Center was my structural fix for the day. The steel connections reminded me a lot of the some of the connections I designed for the project I just completed for the steel competition. It was excited to see and study these connections in the built form. The structure was a stretched canvas (resembling a circus tent) over a steel frame which connected the surrounding buildings of the Sony Center (master plan by Renzo Piano Workshop).
This created an outdoor civic space which is a hot spot for both locals and tourist. We ate dinner under the structure today. It was a pleasant space to spend time socializing.

Well, that’s all I have for today. I hope you enjoy bc the images took forever to upload. It was great and I am looking forward to an adventurous weekend. I will be leaving in about an hour to catch a train to Burgen de Purgen? It is a small island in north Germany which is along the Baltic Sea. There is a national forest where we will be hiking and overlooking the cliff to view the Baltic Sea…none of us know much about it but we figured we were up for a spontaneous adventure. I’ll update how things went when I get back.


  1. I definitely find it interesting that the architect of the philharmonie, scharoun, designed a building based around community, equality, and harmony, the makings of socialism and yet it was built in the times of communism.

  2. Yes, I really respect and enjoy that about the German's culture. Scharoun's philharmonie illustates a good sense of community. His theory on how the people act as a unified body that could enjoy music together. I wish American citizens valued that more rather than constantly trying to be better than everyone else. It takes away the beauty of living together.

  3. I really enjoyed hearing of your experiences of these first days in Berlin. Great Pictures!