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Prager Platz

Berlin, Germany
1 of 16

The project of restoring the edge of the heavily destroyed Prager Platz (Prager square) may be considered a model project for the 1984/87 International Building Exhibition(IBA Berlin 1987). In no other urban area, which was built on during IBA '87, the concept of critical reconstruction is so evident. The pilot project "Models for a City" was carried out on Prager Platz in 1976. The investigation, carried out by Bauausstellung Berlin GmbH, was the initial spark for IBA '87. With this project, the possibilities, approaches, demands and objectives of the international building exhibition 1984/87 were formulated for the first time.

Prager Platz is thus an important testimony from an urban planning perspective. With Gottfried Bohm, Rob Krier and Carlo Aymonino, the development brings together three of the most famous architects of postmodernism. Despite the individual design of the individual buildings, they are held together by an overarching urban design concept. This architectural unity of postmodern planning is not disturbed by the "Prager Passage", which was only completed in 2002. Prager Platz conveys an architecture and town planning picture of postmodernism of the late 1980s.

Urban planning history of Prager Platz

Prager Platz is a historically and contextually important place. It is part of the famous Carstenn figure, which was the urbanization of the outskirts of Berlin in the second half of the 19th century. The development of the strongly rural area around the Wilmersdorf manor began with the streets and development planning under the urban planning of Johann Anton Wilhelm von Carstenn from 1870 to 1874.The regular urban development is formed by the Fasanenplatz, Nurnbergerplatz, Pragerplatz and Nikolsburger Platz. The squares represent the cornerstones of the figure. Prager Platz (Halberstadter Platz until 1888) was designed as a representative and decorative square in accordance with the other squares in the complex. It is a green area surrounded with residential buildings.

With the rapidly growing population of Berlin and the progressive expansion of the city, the Wilmersdorfer area was built on the basis of a plan developed in 1885. According to the building regulations, multi-storey late 19th-century houses were built. In the course of the structural development, the plazas were particularly emphasized. Representative "elegantly large-scale buildings with a landscaped and well-tended roundel [...] were built around Prager Platz" [STEIN 1913, p. 117]

The expansion of Berlin to the west and the establishment of Kurfurstendamm as a shopping and entertainment center increased the influx into the area. Since 1913, the area around Prager Platz was included in the extended inner city location, and there were also connections with electric trams and subways. The area around Prager Platz and east of it showed a high density of buildings and was one of the most popular residential and business areas of the time.

The urban development up to the Second World War demonstrates that the Prager Platz was an important urban area in Berlin. Due to the war destruction, the square lost its attractiveness as a residential and business location. The primary solution to the lack of living space and infrastructure provided for rapid development with simple multi-storey houses.

For the area around the Bundesallee (at that time still Kaiserallee) there were extensive and conceptual reconstruction plans. Carstenn's road planning was integrated in the considerations for the reconstruction, so that the layout of the Prager Platz with its access roads was preserved. The area was also heavily restructured. Above all, the expansion of the Bundesallee into the main traffic artery left clear traces in the city and street scene. Until the late 1970s, Prager Platz remained a place for theoretical gimmicks. The real cityscape, however, showed clear signs of neglect and excessive demands.

Pre IBA'87

Only the urban planning report in the run-up to the IBA '87 developed solvable scenarios for a new space design. As a demonstration project in the "Models for a City" series, Gottfried Bohm, Rob Krier and Carlo Aymonino created visions of an urban space that had been redesigned based on historical principles. The model examinations of 1976 form the groundwork for the theoretical concept of critical reconstruction that was used at the IBA Berlin 1987. Here the typologies and terms were developed. The debates between Bohm, Krier and Aymonino formulated the possibilities for further thinking about urban spaces based on their historical shape and their traditional education. At Prager Platz it is evident like hardly anywhere else in Berlin that there is more behind the concept of critical reconstruction.

These observations make the edge of the square on Prager Platz a tangible model not only for the demands of the IBA '87. The urban planning concept is a significant reflection of the content and theories of postmodern building itself: namely the translation of traditional typologies into contemporary uses and architectural language. This also includes the unmistakable and necessary confrontation of historical traditions with socially revised requirements for life and living.

Residential and commercial building at Prager Platz 4/5 by Gottfried Bohm

The residential and commercial building at 33902|Prager Platz 4/5, planned by Gottfried Bohm quotes the forms of the building that stood there until the end of the war. In this building which we have named Bohm House - Pragerplatz, Bohm takes up the lines of alignment of the old houses and also finds a solution based on the historical model for corner emphasis. Bohm calls it "democratization" of the design and typology. The spatial program and design were revised according to the new and changed social demands. There is no emphasis on the grand residential floor (the upper floor). The floor heights, with the exception of the shop zone on the ground floor, are the same. The building is entered at ground level. Bohm realizes his own claim in this building, "the experience of social change through the experience of architecture". The Prager Platz 4/5 property is one of the important works of the architect Bohm.

Residential and commercial building at Prager Strasse 11 / Motzstrasse 90-94 by Rob Krier

The other contributions also refer to the historical forms of the lost buildings and reinterpret them. The house at 33912|Prager Strasse 11 / Motzstrasse 90-94 quotes the neo-Gothic predecessor building with buttress-like wall templates. The architect Rob Krier developed a corner house on a polygonal floor plan that represents an urban orientation point.

The buildings on Prager Platz are characterized by a common design language and have preserved the urban planning of Wilmersdorfer Carstenn figure and the "Models for a City" in the city map of Berlin until today.