Keywords Change this

Social Housing, IBA 87, International Bauausstellung 1987

Project timeline

1990 – June 19th 1991



Location Change this

Friedrichstraße 234

Current state


Also known as Change this

Tor- und Uhrenhaus, Gate & Watch House, Block 20

Architect Change this


Contact architect: Moritz Mueller

Gate House Change this

Berlin, Germany
by John Hejduk Change this
1 of 5

Description Change this

The Gate House was a refurbishment project designed by John Hejduk for the International Bauausstellung 1987 in Berlin. Part of the design required a reorganization of the block, to reduce the block size and create a mix of uses within the site (including kindergarten).

Situation before the IBA plans

Block 20 is bounded by Hedemannstraße, Friedrichstrasse, Franz Klühs Street and William Street, in an area along the Wilhelmstrasse which was marked by three government buildings. The area was therefore a specific target during World War II and had typical fallow and block fragments left behind.

From the Senate's bill of 1978 for the 1984 International Bauausstellung, the Southern Friedrichstadt was called the "heart" of the building exhibition. In particular, the architectural education and restoration of the historic route of the roads was declared as the goal.

Objectives of the building

The aim of the competition included detailed concepts and development plans for schemes which conveyed "downtown living". Of particular importance to the planning was the restoration of urban space with significance to the Baroque town plan of the Southern Friedrichstadt Wilhelmstrasse.

The redevelopment of block 20 adhered to the objectives by dividing the site into two parts - a built-up northern part and a landscaped park in the south - offer a mixed use courtyard including infrastructure, situation specific types of architecture and integrative forms of housing (seniors and disabled facilities).


The block is seven-stories with 10 apartments, the design of the façade is volumetrically strong and differentiated by projections and recesses. The building occupies a vacant lot and "repaired" as the block boundary of Block 20 on the Friedrichstrasse.

The central section has three windows which are elevated and set back from the building line, with an oversized gate which opens as the entrance to the block inside. The "colonnade" passage has eight lateral pillars on a rectangular base flanking the driveway and highlighting the current paths between pairs of piers. The central axis of the building is accentuated by the tower-like increase of two floors and a walled roof garden. Thus, the building recalls and thus reflects its function as a transition to the interior block. Walkable-flat roofs are used as the outer surfaces of the attic.

The plaster facade with square windows on five windows is completed by a minimal eaves sheet. The structural themes elucidate a gatehouse and clock, which explains the name of the structure as a "watchmaker" with a "clock of the absent time." The watches facade changed, potentially due to financial reasons, the numbers were replaced with. At the courtyard facade (1-4) were each attached balconies at the urging of City Council to four-stories.

The building is foundation is on a 60 cm thick reinforced concrete slab, it is stored in piles, partly new, partly on recycled piles. The foundation has led to special difficulties that prevented a basement and a garage. The longitudinal and transverse walls are executed in reinforced concrete, in conjunction with 16 cm thick floor slabs as bracing.

In residential buildings, a total of ten apartments, including 3 three-room apartments, 4 four-bedroom apartments, 2 three-bedroom split-level apartments and 1 five bedroom duplex apartment. The apartments are each continuous and therefore have orientation for both road space and the courtyard. The apartments are accessed with in the side "towers" horizontal single-flight stairs.

Planning history

John Hejduk developed a concept called "Berlin Mask" for three other blocks in the “Wilhelmstasse” redevelopment. In this concept Hejduk surrounds the entire competition area as a fence with a hedge and placed a total of 28 structural elements, called "masks", between the fenced block fragments of the destroyed city. Each structural element assumes a design by their specific role assigned to them in a "masquerade". The user juts over by entering and using the "mask" just this role and is thus part of the architectural production in urban areas.

John Hejduk gets mentioned in IBA competition "Wilhelmstrasse" in 1981 and was invited for further planning in block 20. There follows a review of the block concept by the winners in 1982.

The 1983/84 public participation was conducted within the zoning process which leads to a problematization of passage into the block interior land as a public road and the rededication of the courtyard.

After editions (including balconies facing the courtyard) and a repeal of concerns including planning permission to live above the passage, construction started. However there were financing issues, meaning Hejduk’s design had to be altered. The design was focused on because of previously low apartment numbers, elements were changed in order to save money including the brick facade and clock element. The elevator is also omitted. The central section is narrowed due to its depth and allows one apartment per floor two small apartments on a level as "Through Apartment". The planning change breaks with the former concept of "serving" capabilities in the side towers and the "servant" in the central block. Unfortunately, this changes the Hejduk’s intention of the relationship between envelope and content. Residents criticized the lack of execution, which was created by the forced savings. Instead of the planned brick façade, it is constructed using thermo plaster.


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