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IBA Phosphate Elimination Plant

Berlin Tegel, Germany
Phosphate elimination plant at Tegel, Berlin.
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Phosphate elimination plant at Tegel, Berlin.

The Phosphate elimination plant was built in Berlin-Tegel in 1985 as part of the International Building Exhibition of 1984/87 (IBA Berlin 1987) and was designed by renowned Viennese architect Gustav Peichl .

Planning history

The north Berlin district of Tegel was founded 600 years ago and gained rapid development in the industrial revolution. Surrounded by a lake, forest and castle Tegel played an important role as a local recreational area. Tegel was well connected to the city with public transport, the city motorway, buses and also by boat. Though the area suffered heavily during de-industrialization. The Tegel port had collapsed, the water of the Tegeler See (Tegel lake) was dirty and contaminated and the recreational purpose and qualities of the area were depleting.

The goal of IBA in Tegel was focused more on its cultural and recreational value than a purely commercial use. Revitalization of the Tegel harbor basin was an important focus. The winning entry of the 1980 IBA competition “Tegel” was a close to nature, waterfront urban plan for a long, curved row of houses and a chain of single houses called “city villas”. The plan by St. Monica, USA based architecture firm Moor / Ruble / Yudell combined meandering green spaces, individual or paired living units and an access to the promenade at the harbor basin. A picturesque cultural and leisure facility on the shore.

Architectural details

The phosphate elimination plant was built in 1985 as part of the IBA Tegel with a goal to eliminate phosphate from the water contaminated by industries and sewage farms which were threatening the biological balance of the lake. The plant is located by the River Nordgraben and processes the water and purifies it before allowing it to flow into the lake and piping it to a fountain in the new harbor extension.

Gustav Peichl designed the structure, a significant construction that brought it to the highest architectural honor as a secular sewage treatment plant. This structure appears like a freighter on land, a ship sailing on a sea of green. The three large clarifiers can be seen from the command bridge.

The ship's metaphor, which was fairly discouraged in Tegel, was born out of sheer pleasure in the significant form in a boring environment. "An architecture that does not create feelings of pleasure is not architecture," is one of Gustav Peichl’s theses.

Even if Gustav Peichl indulged in the narrative and symbolic expressions, he did not want to be considered a postmodern, he rather propagated the concept of the Paramodern, which, as is known, did not prevail.