Block 2, the plot between Dessauer Straße, Stresemannstraße and Bernburger Straße in Berlin-Kreuzberg, was a part of the International Building Exhibition IBA Berlin 1987. The controversial block was originally considered a site for an ecological building by Frei Otto, but was ultimately designated as a demonstration area for women’s issues. At the time, it was mostly wasteland. The St. Luke Church was still standing on the Bernburger Straße, but needed to be reconstructed. Total surface of the plot was 5.817 m², of which 3,204 m² was the construction area.
Women in IBA
The issue of women’s participation in IBA arose at the beginning of the 1980s. Numerous experts were invited by IBA to a public hearing, where they shared their opinion on various social issues relevant to designing the urban renewal process. None of these experts were women. Women from a feminist group Frau-Steine-Erde – architects, engineers, scientists – did, however, attend the hearing, and interrupted it to voice their concern over the exclusion of women from the planning and construction process. They made seven unannounced speeches at the hearing, in which they criticized IBA not only for not engaging female experts and commissioning only male architects but also for not taking into account the way in which the renewal project will affect female residents, who usually bear the burden of the big changes in their communities. They insisted on women’s participation in all stages of the planning process, with consideration for the living conditions of women during the renewals. They also requested for female architects and planners to be hired by IBA. This intervention resulted in certain concessions, which led to more opportunities for female designers and architects to get involved in the program – albeit with delay. It also resulted in the creation of FOPA/ Feminist Organization of Planners and Architects. The first meeting of FOPA was held on December 20, 1981 in Berlin.
The initiative to involve women as authors has ultimately led to a decision to invite several female architects, local and international, to participate in the reconstruction of Block 2 where a project for an emancipatory living was to be developed. Situated between Stresemannstrasse, Dessauerstrasse and Bernburger Strasse, at the time of planning this block was a stone’s throw away from the Berlin Wall. It was divided into six lots, three of which – lots 1, 2 and 3 – were designated for women’s architectural projects, which were supposed to respond to specific demands of women living in the city. IBA hired Zaha Hadid (Baghdad / London), Myra Warhaftig, (Tel Aviv / Berlin) and Christine Jachmann (Berlin), who was also in charge of coordinating the planning process for the entire block.The area stood as a demonstration zone for how architecture can respond to the specific needs of women.
In the meantime, however, a plan emerged to have the IBA contribution of Polish architects built in this block as well. On April 15 1986, a design seminar for invited members of the Polish Architectural Association took place in the IBA House. The participants consisted of five teams: 1) Wojciech Dobrzanski and Romuald Loegler, 2) Wojciech Kosinski and Andry Wyzykowski, 3) Stanislaw Denko and Robert Kuzianik, 4) Krzyszkof Lenartowicz and Jacek Czekaj, 5) Daniel Karpinski and Wojciech Obtulowicz. This provoked protests by the women's movement. FOPA (Feminist Organization of Planners and Architects) and Zaha Hadid spoke critically in the press about the women's block which would be built by men. IBA responded by involving FOPA, which was to announce a limited competition in 1986 and to prepare a new report on building for women.
In July 1986, two seminars and a workshop were organized with the intention to sharpen the focus of the works aimed to support "emancipatory living". In December 1986, the Working Group on Ecological Urban Redevelopment was commissioned to draw up a catalog on ecological measures for the residential development in Stresemannstraße, Dessauer Straße and Bernburger Straße. Finally, an ecological seminar for the architects involved in planning Block 2 was organized in 1987. The design recommended that children's play areas should be fields of experience, and it led to a special design of the courtyards: there were shrubs to hide, as well as water and sand spots.
Planning priorities and urban design concept
The priorities were emancipatory living and experimental living arrangements, 12 apartments accessible to handicapped tenants, environmentally friendly raw materials, and energy-saving construction methods.
The urban planning concept envisaged a 4-storey building connected to a block with three courtyards between Stresemannstraße, Dessauer Straße and Bernburger Straße, with an 8-storey corner building on Stresemannstraße / Dessauer Straße.
Plots and Architects
Lot 1: Zaha Hadid
Hadid IBA Housing Block 2 - built 1993-94
Lot 2: Myra Warhaftig
Warhaftig House - Block 2 - built 1991–93
Lot 3: Christine Jachmann
Jachmann House - Block 2, Bernburger Straße 9 / 9B - built 1991–93
Lots 4 and 5: Romuald Loegler
Dessauer Straße 34/35, Bernburger Straße 7 - built 1991–93
Lot 6: Peter Blake
Bernburger Straße 6 - built 1991–93
Outdoor facilities: Hannelore Kossel