Studio

Our studio is located at Crellestrasse 21, 10827 Berlin, Germany.  The IES program has two floors, one with a few smaller classrooms and one with a large open space devoted to the studio workspace.  Both floors have small kitchen areas, complete with coffee maker, microwave, and fridge.  There is a small table to eat at, and a small couch near the fridge area as well.  We have access to a large printer, and a few reference books for classes.  There are also a couple guides to Berlin, which are actually really helpful.  I just recently used one called Second Hand Berlin, which is a guide to all the second hand stores in the city!

In the studio space, we each get a individual table and sit in clustered groups depending on who our studio teacher is.  Studio class happens usually once a week, and we have slightly longer desk crits.  The teachers are usually there for the entire day, which is nice because we can sometimes talk to them twice if we have follow up questions.  This semester we have also had several guest sustainability critiques come in to talk to us about our individual projects, and its sustainable aspects.  Sustainability is a large focus of the semester, we even separate our trash!

 

Dresden

In Dresden we had an amazing tour guide named Helmut. He led us on a tour of the city which included seeing Libeskind’s Military Museum and the new Jewish Synagogue.  Helmut shared his own personal story about growing up in divided Germany, and the many regimes he lived under.  Dresden, which was completely bombed during the WWII, has been almost entirely rebuilt, and has had to confront many issues of how and what to rebuild.  They have created some very interesting urban zoning strategies, and preservation tactics. Walking though this city with Helmut, who was actually born in Dresden, and seeing the transformed city through his point of view was an invaluable experience.

 

Prague Variety

On a recent trip to Prague with the architecture school, I was extremely impressed.  This city not only has a impressive mass of buildings, but has a very extensive variety of styles and forms.  While on a walking tour we saw a lot of older architectural styles.  These included some famous ones, like the Charles Bridge, a VERY Baroque church, the palace, and many other buildings.  The attention to detail that all of these buildings had was incredible, and the skill that went into creating them is easily seen.

Prague has many other time periods represented just as well.  Influences include Art Deco and Cubism, which personally I found surprising.  There is even a famous Cubist lamp post, which sits within a courtyard in a sparsly populated part of the city.  It was a hidden gem to find.  We also visited the Dancing House by Frank Gehry and the Villa Müller by Adolf Loos.  (Although we were not allowed to take pictures inside the villa Muller, I got one through the bars at the front.) 

Museumsinsel Hombroich

 This museum, created by artist Erwin Heerich, is a series of pavilions made out of rough brick.  Some of them contain artwork and some of them are meant to be sculptures themselves.  The entire site is spread out in the countryside and the pavilions are only accessible through winding trails.  Walking through this outdoor museum was really cool, we felt lost, and actually got lost quite a few times.  We found ourselves stumbling upon amazing works of art by Klimt and Monet.  But one of the coolest things about this museum is that there are no name tags to identify any of the works.  The entire journey is about being immersed in the art, not viewing it from a far away distance at a cold museum. They don’t even have security guards.  You could go up and actually push a Calder mobile if you wanted! Although you probably still shouldn’t…

 

Re-use of Industrial Sites

This past week we took a trip to the Ruhr Valley, an area in north west Germany. Most of this area is a former industrial zone. Much of the trip was spent considering the different ways these areas were converted into public spaces, or spaces that have public functions.

We started off our trip in Wolksburg, the town surrounding the VW Autostadt. They have a massive production plant here, which the town basically functions around. The Autostadt, VW’s public area, has different pavilions for all the of car branches they own. The pavilions have some pretty crazy, but also really cool designs. The whole area feels like a Disneyland for luxury cars.

Although we went a lot of places, one of the ones I liked best was Landshaft Park. It was a former steel mill, or steel campus, turned into a public park. It was huge! The designs for

walkways allow you to climb large steel structures on built climbing walls and walk along the rings of humongous steel basins. The park allows the public into areas that are usually restricted, and has a ton of cool, innovative solutions to how to make these areas accessible.

Home away from home: Our apartments

Our apartments here in Berlin are located in the Kretzburg district, along Adalberstrasse. We are all kind of spread out in one apartment structure, so it feels a little reminiscent of dorm life, but in a much better way. The apartments here are really nice.

Our apartment faces directly onto Adalberstrasse and there is a ton of natural light in the morning and during the day. There is a kitchen, equipped with a stove, dishes, and a coffee maker (essential). The living room is a really nice size, and is definitely big enough to have people come over and hang out in. There is a TV too, but unless you can speak fluent German, this really isn’t very entertaining.

Every apartment is basically the same layout. There is a single bedroom, a double bedroom, and a shared bathroom in each. The double bedroom is pretty big though, so there is no need to worry about space. Each bedroom also has closet space, and drawers.

The biggest difference in these apartments from American apartments is the lack of Wifi. There is no wifi throughout the apartment complex, and there is no place to hook up an Ethernet cord either. A lot of people have dealt with this by getting re-loadable internet sticks for their computer, which can be purchased at local electronic stores. The outlets are also different, and it can be a little obnoxious to buy a ton of convertors. I brought a large power cord and convertor, which we charge all our electronics in, using the American chargers.

The surrounding area is really nice (I’ll post more about it later!). It is full of cafes, bars, and pretty good cheap restaurants. It reminds me a little bit of Brooklyn. There are a ton of young adults, and even young families. The pictures posted are from the past week, when the entire city seemed to change into fall.

 

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Dessau

Dessau, often recognized by architects and artists as the home of the Bauhaus, is also home to the Federal Environmental Agency of Germany. We saw both of these incredible structures on a day trip to the town.

The Federal Environmental Agency building, built by Sauerbruch & Hutton in 2005, is the official home to the environmental branch of the German government. Moving this entire branch outside of the German capital to Berlin, to Dessau was a strategic move by the government to revitalize the area after the war. The building, although designed in the late 1990′s still represents an ideal green building. It was built over a cleaned brownfield and holds a massive thermal heating system, along with many other green building initiatives. The building has won several awards, and after spending time inside, its not hard to see why. Other than just being super environmentally friendly, it is just super cool. The entire inside is planted and falls under a humongous glass roof that fills the space with natural light.

The other site we visited, Bauhaus, was also super interesting to see up close. After learning so much about it, its implications for the design world, and my own Boston connection to Walter Gropius, it was incredible to see everything in person. After taking the classic Bauhaus picture, we got an extensive tour of the facility, which is now operated as a museum.

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AEG Compound

We recently went to visit the AEG compound in Berlin, designed by Peter Behrens. After studying Behrens last year in history class, and learning his importance from afar, it was super cool to see his work up close. Behrens’s firm employed many architects that went on to define modernism: Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius, and Mies Van der Rohe.

This particular compound of buildings, although slightly damaged during the war, is almost entirely unaltered from its original state. The buildings originally were operated by the AEG electric company in Berlin, but are now owned by Technical University. The University’s engineering school uses the main turbine hall as a testing ground for their materials, and structures test. When we got a tour of the facilities, we saw some of these tests up close.

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Berlin City Model

We recently took a trip to see a city model of Berlin.  This is a permanent exhibition called “Urban Development- Planning, Models, Projects.”  If you have seen the BRA’s city model of Boston, this one of Berlin is very similar.  It shows the existing urban fabric, along with projects underway, and proposed projects within the city.  The scale is 1:500 and 1:1000.

Berlin City Model 

 
The Berlin Bear

On our way to see the city model we also encountered one of Berlin’s most prominent symbols: the bear.  This bear enclosure is in a fairly open park, and allows the viewers a 360 degree close up view of the amazing creature.  Neighborhoods in Berlin have kept live bears as attractions for centuries, as a symbol of the city.

 

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Potsdam Excursion

We ended our first week of classes, with a field trip to Potsdam, Germany, which is just outside the city and only about an hour away.  Led by our regular tour guide, Jim, we all learned a lot about this once royal town.

We traveled together from Berlin to the station in Potsdam.  Jim led us through the historic sites of the area and gave us a brief history of the city. It had been the residence of the German Kaiser until 1918, and before that, home to the Prussian kings.  There were many  gorgeous houses and compounds and while walking through the town, we were all in awe. There is a brick dutch style area, that has an abundance of outdoor cafes and restaurants.  The downtown area also boasts some amazing shopping with great gift-buying options.