The house at Checkpoint Charlie was designed by Peter Eisenman and built as part of the International Building Exhibition (International Bauausstellung or IBA Berlin 1987. The building was in the demonstration area of Southern Friedrichstadt. Its building structure at the corner of Kochstrasse and Friedrichstrasse defines the block corner of Block 5. The IBA's planning goal in Southern Friedrichstadt was to reopen the historic city structure, the city floor plan and its typical block perimeter development, and to reintroduce the mix of uses of work and living in the city center.
Additional to the demonstration goals of urban restoration of street space and mixed use, the “genius loci” of the special situation due to its adjacency to the Berlin Wall are characteristic of the project. In this context, the project is to be understood as an interpretation of these site-specific and political guidelines by the authors. In the course of the implementation, however, the immediate reference to the wall was lost due to the omission of the “Mauerpark” project section. Architecturally, the building is an important contribution to the development of deconstructivism of the 80s and 90s.
The urban situation before IBA 1984/87
In the 1978 Senate bill for the International Building Exhibition Berlin ´84, southern Friedrichstadt is referred to as the "heart" of the building exhibition. In particular, the “architectural training and restoration of the historic intersection of Kochstrasse and Friedrichstrasse is declared the goal. This shows the special importance of the area and its buildings for the IBA ´84´87.
Before construction began, the immediate vicinity of the Friedrichstrasse 207/208 plot was characterized by the preserved floor plan of the Kochstrasse and Friedrichstrasse intersections, preserved individual buildings of the block structure destroyed in the Second World War, the GDR border system running along Zimmerstrasse and the Checkpoint Charlie border crossing, directly on the plot.
The urban situation immediately before the start of planning was characterized by a highly heterogeneous block fragments from the buildings up till 1945 and the individual buildings from the reconstruction program of the 50s and 60s, such as the Springer House on the heavily war-torn urban area, which was caused by the city - and post-war transport policies.
Block 5 was characterized by block fragments from the 19th century that defined the east, south and west sides, between which the new IBA buildings were placed as block repairs. The political situation of the locally eminent "Cold War '' and the global east-west confrontation became decisive for the appearance of the building. With the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961 by the GDR government, Friedrichstadt along Zimmerstraße was divided into a northern and southern area and the traffic axis from Friedrichstrasse to Lindenstrasse was interrupted by a fortified border crossing. As a result, the inner-city location of southern Friedrichstadt became a peripheral edge of West Berlin.
Demonstration Goals of the Building Exhibition
The demonstration goals for Block 5 were formulated by the IBA for the Kochstrasse-Friedrichstrasse 1980/81 international competition, “Living and Working in the Southern Friedrichstadt”. The aim of the competition was to formulate a development and open space concept for the four blocks, which are limited by Zimmerstraße, Puttkamerstraße, Charlottenstraße and Wilhelmstraße.
Relevant for the project were: restoration of the traditional street space, urban and architectural restoration of a destroyed block on the wall, development of special usage and floor plans for inner-city housing construction on busy streets (structural noise protection).
For this the invited Eisenman / Robertson office in 1980/81 developed a concept of overlapping and mutually interlinked structures to create "one of the most imposing and symbolic places, [...] in one of the most unusual areas of the world".
In the course of the planning, these goals were expanded in particular to justify the Eisenman design for the IBA: "Its own, timely architectural style between old buildings, without resorting to urban insertion or adaptation architecture".
Eight-storey building for 37 apartments, some of which are suitable for the disabled. Eleven of them are designated as senior housing. The block corner is emphasized by the expansion to eight floors, compared to the existing six-story building. The ground floor and a large part of the 1st floor are designated as commercial space and have housed the Wall Museum "Haus am Checkpoint Charlie" since the building was completed. Built with funds from social housing subsidies.
The building accommodates the two grid systems proposed by Eisenman / Robertson in the competition entry of 1980, which are laid over the planning area and differ from one another due to their orientation.
The first grid takes up the alignment of the orthogonal structure of Friedrichstadt and thus fits into the existing street alignment. The second grid system refers to the global Merkator network, which symbolically evokes a connection between Berlin and the rest of the world. This gesture refers to the nationally important political situation, which has a substantial impact on the site.
This method of twisting and overlaying, which is visible in design and layout, makes its way to the striking, swiveling facade surfaces of the 1 to 5 storeys. The facade visually forms a clear contrast to the conventional block edge development and thus also sees itself as a criticism of the fetishes of the historic city center and a development very much opposing adaptation and conformity in architecture.
The facade facing the street- and the facade making the corner are differentiated from each other. For which, Eisenman uses design elements and colors, which had already appeared in his undeveloped project "House X" in 1975 and later developed further in projects such as the Koizumi Sangyo headquarters in Tokyo, Japan 1988–90. Different sized, colored lattice elements are visually superimposed to form the window rungs or as plaster surfaces and strips. The red, white and gray color palette, which is reminiscent of the work of the Dutch “De Stijl” movement and the artist Mondrian, underline the references of the individual areas to the twisted volumes.
The complexity of the structure is not reflected in the floor plans of the apartments. Fairly simple and different apartment sizes enable a differentiated range of apartments, with a focus on barrier-free apartments for seniors. The residential floors are accessible with a closed arcade oriented towards the courtyard, to which the stairwell and elevator are attached as independent structures. The majority of the apartments face the street, with the exception of the apartments adjacent to the existing buildings, which also face the courtyard. The apartments have interior bathrooms and kitchens. A living room usually serves as a through room to a partially interior, windowless bedroom and a winter garden.