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IBA Residential Complex Ritterstrasse-Nord

Berlin, Germany
1 of 8
One of Block 28 buildings

Residential complex Ritterstrasse-Nord (on the Ritterstrasse 55-60B, Alte Jakobstrasse, Feilernstrasse, Lindenstrasse and Oranienstrasse) was built as part of IBA Berlin 1987. The complex was built in 1981 as part of the southern Friedrichstadt development. Today centrally located in the city centre, the block lied very close to the Berlin Wall when the city was divided.

Condition before IBA

The site was cleared in the post-war period. The only buildings left on the block were the former imperial debt administration building and the former commercial buildings "Der Merkur" and "Handelsstatte Lindenhaus". The plots were partly used as parking lots.

Planning History

In the 1970s, the Senate for Construction and Housing adopted a new urban development policy initiative for this area, initiated by Senate Building Director Hans Christian Muller. In 1977 an urban planning framework was developed, which allowed for a mixture of residential and commercial space. Architect Rob Krier of the University of Vienna presented an urban planning study based on this outline plan, taking into account the pre-war design of the district. The new development of the blocks was founded on this study. For the first time after the war, a block edge development of detached houses was built on Ritterstrasse-Sud between 1977 and 1980, the execution of which was awarded to different groups of architects. A "unity in diversity" had to be achieved by means of a planning methodology designed for such a collaborative and cooperative project. The consistently young architects coordinated their work in seminars and workshops and, together with the client, authorities and coordinators, developed the system from master planning to the floor plans. Ritterstrasse-Sud, also known as Konzepta Residential Complex became a pilot project for the International Building Exhibition IBA Berlin 1987.

Residential complex at Ritterstrasse-Nord

This second part to the north of the street was much larger with a total of 315 apartments in 35 buildings. The complex was thus one of the largest projects of the IBA. Krier's most striking design feature, the arrangement of perimeter block buildings around a series of residential courtyards, which can only be reached via gatehouses is evident in this IBA project. Feilnerstrasse forms a central axis, around which four apartment blocks are grouped. With this closed building design, the architect wanted to keep the living space "completely shielded from its shattered environment". In spite of the inner city location, there were to be opportunities for retreat and relaxation.

Ritterstrasse-Nord residential complex consists of Block 31 (between Feilnerstrasse and Ritterstrasse) and Block 28 (between Feilnerstrasse and Oranienstrasse). Since both the construction projects were carried out separately, the complex consists of two blocks. Construction of Block 31 in 1982 was based on Krier's study; the block was completed and incorporated in 1983. As for Block 28, IBA initially supported the idea of building a new hospital there. However, after careful consideration, they returned to Krier's original concept. The construction of Block 28 started in 1986 and was completed in 1988. The entire Ritterstrasse-Nord residential complex in the eastern part of Southern Friedrichstadt consists of 35 multi-family dwellings with 314 apartments.


True to its postmodern time, a wide variety of materials and shapes can be found here. On Ritterstrasse and in the interior, the facades are brightly plastered, a contrast to the reddish-brown brick facades facing Lindenstrasse, Oranienstrasse and Alte Jakobstrasse.

One of the brick buildings is the former Imperial Debt Administration building which was one of the only buildings left on the block at the corner of Oranienstrasse and Alte Jakobstrasse, which today houses the Health, Care and Equality department of the state of Berlin. The expressionist building designed by architect German Bestelmeyer dates from the Weimar Republic. After its renovation, it blended seamlessly with the Ritterstrasse-Nord residential complex, in line with the IBA's plans for the continued use of modernised old buildings.

Symbolism and historical references of postmodernism are visible in forms such as, the Feilnerhaus at Feilnerstrasse 4, designed by Rob Krier. It used to be the site of a classicist residential building designed by Karl Friedrich Schinkel, which burnt down during the Second World War. The proportions of the building and structural details such as cornices and window dimensions are reminiscent of the previous building. Krier also borrowed from history the use of arcade arches, which divide the brick facades on Feilnerstrasse.

Buildings and Architects

Block 31 architects (see the drawing of the floorplan above):

• House 1, 5, 8, 11: Dietrich Bangert, Bernd Jansen, Stefan Scholz, Axel Schultes• House 2, 3, 23: Eckhard Feddersen, Herder & Partner• House 4, 18, 20: Joachim Ganz, Walter Rolfes• House 6, 10, 13, 15: Barbara Benzmuller, Wolfang Worner• House 7, 16, Schinkelplatz: Rob Krier• House 9, 12, 14, 21: Andreas Brandt, Thomas Hot, Axel Liepe, Hartmut Steigelmann• House 17, 19, 22: Urs Muller, Rhode & Partner

Block 28 architects (see the drawing of the floorplan):

• House 1, 6, 12: Barbara Benzmuller and Manfred Worner• House 2: Eckhard Feddersen, Herder & Partner• House 3: Axel Liepe and Hartmut Steigelmann• House 4, 5: Dietrich Bangert, Bernd Jansen, Stefan Scholz, Axel Schultes• House 7: Urs Muller, Thomas Rhode• House 8, 9: Joachim Ganz, Walter Rolfes,• House 10, 11: Rob Krier (concept), Klaus Kamann (Implementation Planning )• Urban Design: Rob Krier

Open spaces design

The open spaces of the residential complex Ritterstrasse-Nord were created according to a design by Jasper Halfmann and Klaus Zillich. Halfmann and Zillich reacted with their design to the different types of outdoor spaces designed by Rob Krier.

The central point of the residential complex is the Schinkelplatz, a 30-meter-wide square, framed by four gatehouses. From here all parts of the complex can be reached, passages in the corners of the square lead to the four large garden courtyards. Each of them follows an own design concept of the architects Jasper Halfmann and Klaus Zillich. To the northwest is the Pergola garden, with plant-covered porticoes and a children's playground. In the northeastern courtyard there are small tenant gardens for the residents of the ground floor apartments, here another pergola provides privacy. Such colonnades are also found in the other two yard gardens, the "Zellgarten" (cell garden) and the "Gehirngarten" (brain garden). For the latter, Halfmann and Zillich were inspired by a cross-section of the human brain.

The urban qualities of the residential complex, envisioned by Rob Krier in the early eighties, have been very well preserved up until today and the residential courtyards continue to create a perfect retreat for all those who need a break from city life.

With the high proportion of small tenant gardens, as well as extensive courtyards and open spaces, the concept supports the planning intention of the IBA Berlin 1987, which was to promote the individualization of inner-city housing construction and to create a functioning urban quarter. Restrained but decisive design created (nowadays very well preserved) private, communal, public and semi-public areas which are separated, but uphold the creative unity marked by skillful use of recurring design elements such as pergolas and avenues, as well as the frequent use of clinker, concrete blocks and cobblestones.

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sonjadragovic, July 8th, 2020
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