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Project timeline

1957 – 1959

Type

Industrial

Location Change this

Gottschedstr. 4
13357 Berlin
Germany

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Article last edited by Christian on
July 30th, 2012

ExRotaprint (1959) Change this

Berlin, Germany
by Klaus Kirsten Change this
1 of 8

Description Change this

Architecturally ExRotaprint is mainly known for the structural additions made to factory and office buildings of printing press manufacturer Rotaprint. ExRotaprint refers to an initiative of tenants of the Rotaprint complex that came together to acquire the site from the city of Berlin.

History

The manufacturer Rotaprint AG was founded in Berlin in the district of Wedding in 1904 and became the first and leading provider of offset printing presses. Rotaprint operated in Wedding until the company went bankrupt in 1989 when it became impossible to withstand the competition of cheaper copying machines. After the company's demise the premises on an area of roughly 10,000 m2 were taken over by the City of Berlin. In 2004 a collective of artists created the initiative ExRotaprint which acquired the complex on the basis of a heritable building right with the help of "Trias" and "Edith Maryon". These two charitable foundations came up with the purchase price.

Architecture

The Rotaprint factory originally consisted of buildings from the beginning of the last century, the German "Gründerzeit". After the Second World War a large portion of the site lay in ruins and only a couple of buildings situated around the inner courtyard were saved. In the 1950´s the rapid increase of production led to the demand of new production spaces that should have given the site a modern identity, adding new stylistically demanding structures. For this purpose has been chosen the architect Klaus Kirsten.

1950s Enlargement

In 1951, low-rise structures were built on Gottschedstraße to replace the building that had been destroyed; In their basic structure they retained aspects of the pre-war buildings, as suggested by the rectangular entrance way columns and the small architrave.
 The building wing with a courtyard on Gottschedstrasse 4 was rebuilt in 1956, to its former dimensions. Klaus Kirsten’s glass-enclosed so called technical office which housed the design department was erected at the same time. The building benefits from natural light from two angles which facilitated the work of engineers who worked there at standing desks on construction designs. From 1957 to 1958 an administration building and an assembly hall designed by the architect Otto Block was added at Wiesenstrasse 29.

Office Building

During the same period Klaus Kirsten designed a new complex on the corner of Gottschedstrasse and Bornemannstrasse. This emblematic building, know as the office building, gave ExRotaprint its notoriety. It has a prominent main structure with boxy protrusions. It features sharply offset concrete blocks with unbroken surfaces and asymmetrically placed windows of various sizes.The glass bay windows on the third floor echo the design of observation pulpits in large production halls.

The choice of concrete as a building material has two theories, the first is that the architect was influenced by the work of Le Corbusier and his studies on the material itself; this influence can also be seen in the staggered cubes with closed surfaces and asymmetrical set of different-sized windows. The second theory argues that it was a pure economic issue.

The archive material presents design plans that were never executed, they are to be read as preliminary design that for unknown reasons were never built.
The plans of the Office Building show a seven-story building with plaster façade. Today´s building has five stories and there are elements that indicate is being unfinished. On the fifth floor there is a stairwell that should have led to the anticipated upper floors and there is a gap between windows frames and façades. Contiguous to this building, there is the aforementioned administration building with a gridded façade, which is built onto an existing building in the back. Facing the street on Bornemannstrasse is a one-story assembly hall and a two-story glass stairwell.

Workshop

In 1958-59 Kirsten constructed a five-story workshop building on the lot at Reinickendorfer Strasse 44-45 with visually impressive concrete blocks stacked on top and nested inside of one another. All of Kirsten's buildings are constructed in steel reinforced concrete. This building also presents some elements which make it clear that this was only the initial phase of the planned construction.Its glass-steel façade was supposed to extend along the firewall of the side wing situated in the back.

The Rotaprint architectural design is full of interesting details and uniquely fabricated features. Particularly eye-catching, for instance, are the narrow window profiles and center-pivot window hinges, as well as tiles and glass room dividers. The structural changes made to the older buildings are also worth of note including the narrow-perimeter wooden frame windows, the cornices applied to the low-rise buildings as well as the white plastering. They lend the ensemble an overall sense of cohesion.




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