Los Angeles based Gehry Partners have won the competition for a new skyscraper on Berlin’s Alexanderplatz. Second place was awarded to the entry from Berlin based Kleihues + Kleihues, third place to Barkow Leibinger, Berlin.
Resembling an extended version of the Gehry Tower in Hamburg, or perhaps more accurately a more reserved version of the practice’s New York by Gehry skyscraper in Manhattan, the new Gehry tower will rise some 150 meters from the north-east corner of Alexanderplatz and in addition to flats will also house a hotel. Construction is due to begin in 2015.
Architecturally the most important buildings on Alexanderplatz are without question Peter Behrens’ Alexanderhaus and Berolinahaus, and all new buildings on Alexanderplatz must take them into account.
The fact that none of the new constructions since unification have done such is of course one of the principle reasons Alexanderplatz lacks the self-assured allure of a composed, smart inner city location and instead presents itself like some confused adolescent, moping about in a maelstrom of mood swings and anxieties.
With the decision for a sandstone façade Gehry Partners have made a welcome attempt to visually match the new tower block to the limestone of the Behrens’ constructions – it of course remains to be seen just what material is finally selected, in their competition entry Gehry Partners only make a suggestion – and also in the organisation of the windows one can see a reference to both the Alexanderhaus and the Berolinahaus.
Its just a shame that Gehry Partners felt the need to”turn” their tower. We accept its probably something of an innate need amongst Gehry architects, if not a pre-set on all computers in their offices, but….
Resembling a stack of three individual towers, the architects have slightly turned each of the three to create a visual demarcation between the three elements of the stack: lower floors a hotel, middle floors one and two bedroom flats, top floors larger, and ultimately, penthouse flats. However, because the streamlining detail on the outer façade doesn’t run continuously but rather has been “offset” on account of the turning, it makes the construction look somewhat lazily designed. As if no-one invested the time and effort to make sure the three units were properly turned.
It looks random. And as such unattractive. Indeed we were greatly reminded of the quote in Hitchcock and Johnson’s “The International Style” about another three-tiered construction, William Lescaze and George Howe’s Philadelphia Saving Fund Society Building: “unsatisfactorily resolved”1
Then there is the question of what the building will bring to Alexanderplatz. Other than flats and a hotel. On current impressions the answer is, not much. Which is regrettable. And not something a city in Berlin’s position can really afford.
The new Gehry tower block is intended as the first of 8 million skyscrapers on Alexanderplatz that will ultimately form a Berlin skyline of global renown and make Berlin the envy of all other metropli and the most important and richest city in the universe.
We’re not holding our breath, or better put don’t expect to live long enough to see a second skyscraper constructed on Alexanderplatz.
To be honest we don’t even understand the need.
As a “city centre” location surrounded by historic quarters and townhouses we simply don’t see the necessity to build skyscrapers on Alexanderplatz and would much rather see a development concept that better reflected the location’s position in the city plan and which attempted to merge with the surrounding districts rather than dominate them. A solution which transformed Alexanderplatz into somewhere you want to visit, hang-out, etc…..
And where a better solution for the trams can be found. And of course without the hideous squat “Saturn” building that the developers are still stubbornly refusing to remove. Even though it obviously should be. Indeed must.
But as ever, what do we know…..
The winning entry from Gehry Partners and the second and third placed designs by Kleihues + Kleihues and Barkow Leibinger can be viewed in a poster presentation in the Senatsverwaltung für Stadtentwicklung und Umwelt, Köllnischen Park 3, 10179 Berlin until Wednesday February 12th 2014.
1. Henry Russell Hitchcock & Philip Johnson “The International Style”. Norton, New York, 1995
In the middle Gehry Partners winning entry for a new tower block on Berln Alexanderplatz. Left the second placed entry by Kleihues + Kleihues, right the third placed entry by Barkow Leibinger