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Gate House

Berlin, Germany
1 of 8

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

Situation before the IBA plans

Block 20 is bounded by Hedemannstrasse, Friedrichstrasse, Franz Kluhsstrasse and Williamstrasse, 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 closure 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". The restoration of urban space with significance to the Baroque town plan of the Southern Friedrichstadt and Wilhelmstrasse was Of particular importance to the planning.

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 - offering 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 facade is volumetrically strong and differentiated by projections and recesses. The building occupies a vacant lot and "repaired" the block boundary of Block 20 on Friedrichstrasse.

The central section has three windows which are elevated and set back from the building line, with an over sized 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 reflects its function as a transition to the interior block. Walkable-flat roofs are used as the outer surfaces of the attic.

The plastered facade with rows of five square 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 watch facade changed, potentially due to financial reasons, the numbers were replaced. At the courtyard facade (1-4) balconies were attached, after being urged by the City Council.

The building's foundation is on a 60 cm thick reinforced concrete slab, it is stored in piles, partly new, partly recycled piles. The foundation 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.

The buildings have 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 on both the street side and the courtyard side. The apartments are accessed with the side "towers" with horizontal single-flight stairs.

Planning history

John Hejduk's involvement with IBA can be traced back to his remarkable 1980 Berlin Masque entry for the "Wilhelmstrasse" IBA competition. Hejduk placed 28 small structures called "masks" between the block fragments of the destroyed city district. Hejduk's entry won him a special prize of three building sites of the international building exhibition. One of which is the Gate House on Wilhelmstrasse.

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

The 1983/84 public participation was conducted within the zoning process which lead to the complication about the entrance passage into the block's interior part as a public road and required a reallocation of the courtyard.

After additions (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 the clock element. The elevator was also omitted. The central section got narrower due to its depth and allowed one apartment per floor and two small apartments on a level as "Through Apartment". Unfortunately, the changes made to Hejduk's initial design intentions 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 facade, it is constructed using thermo plaster.

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sveneggers, June 28th, 2020
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