The building at the corner of Kochstrasse, 1-4 and Wilhelmstrasse, 36-38 is a building designed under the International BauAusstellung IBA Berlin 1987. The building was designed by italian architects Aldo Rossi and Gianni Braghieri. The two italian architects submitted their entry in 1980/81 for the the competition "Living and Working in Southern Friedrichstadt". After several revisions of the design, the building was completed in 1988.
IBA 1984/87 and Aldo Rossi
Rossi's urban and theoretical work had a significant impact on the conception of the Internationale BauAufstellung 1984/87 which gave a new identity to urban renewal schemes in West Berlin under the management of Josef Paul Kleihues. Rossi in his article, “Aspetti della tipologia residenziale a Berlino, 1960” for Casabella praised Berlin for its fragmented, multi loci, multi fabric urban typology. Berlin supported his argument of smaller city zones, urban artefacts and a method away from the totalitarian master planning of modernists before him. His collaboration with Braghieri began in 1971 with the design for the San Cataldo Cemetery in Modena, Italy.
Block 10- Site and Surrounding
Bounded by Friedrichstrasse, Kochstrasse, Wilhelmstrasse and Puttkamerstrasse, the block was at a short distance from the wall and apart from some haphazardly built small structures on the interior, the block was mainly left neglected and incomplete since the 70s. Aldo Rossi and Gianni Braghieri with the design for their southwestern corner block, aimed at closing the open edges of the block and situating it firmly in its surrounding. Restoring the historical fabric of southern Friedrichstadt was the goal of the renewal of this and the surrounding blocks of IBA Berlin 1987. Preservation of the continuity of the street front, along with the variety and diversity of architecture style allowed Rossi to practice his theories of urban artefacts in a collective environment.
The architects based their design process by studying the pre-existing models and materials in the Berlin architectural tradition and by looking at the elements of the site. Restoring the road axis, respecting and maintaining the average eaves height along Friedrichstraße and using materials like brick and glass on the exterior, white plaster on the interior and green copper for the roofs the architects retained the nineteenth-century historical Berlin construction style.
Material and Characteristics
The building, structured in two part, is divided into seven sections as a memory of the original building destroyed during the Second World War. The planning also consists of different types of houses and facades, which are separated with strips of vertical connections. The presence of these vertical segments is accentuated by the green color used, and their ending in two pointed pediments highlight the appearance of Gothic spiers. The red brick facades and the yellow stone bands, counter the verticality of the green segments and also refer to the state and commercial buildings in Berlin. On the other hand, on Wilhelmstraße, the completely glazed segments in the facade are thought of as a reminiscence of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. The large glazed winter gardens, designed both to serve as noise buffers and to maximize the sunlight in the winter months. The winter gardens, punctuations and openings in the facade, make the building permeable, connecting the interior courtyards and greeneries to the outside street and in return making it a pleasant exchange.
The most recognizable element is a giant white four-storey column, on the corner of Wilhelmstraße and Kochstraße. This sculptural element divides the two street fronts and marks the main entrance of the residential complex. It, of strong visual impact, chromatically contrasts with the red of prospectuses and acts as a hinge from which meander the two arms of the complex. If reduced to its basic geometric and symbolic shape, one notices it as a recurring motif in Rossi's designs since the monument was built first in 1965. Behind the pillar is the diagonal access to the courtyard, which is reminiscent of the development of the well-known block by Josef Paul Kleihues on Vineta Square (1971-77).
The building holds 83 apartments, arising from the same starting point and varying in the relationship between the kitchen, dining and living room. Along Kochstrasse, shops and colonnades alternate on the ground floor, behind which are the entrances as well as the storage and common rooms of the tenants of the residential complex. Three small apartments face the quiet courtyard. Along Wilhelmstrasse, Rossi and Braghieri had consistently furnished apartments on the ground floor, each with their own front garden. In the event of a widening of the street, the front gardens should be dismantled and shops should move into the rooms with a higher level of precaution instead of the ground floor apartments.
A lot of Rossi and and Braghieri’s utopic urban ideologies got a base to rise from in this rigorously geometric building at the corner of Kochstrasse and Wilhelmstrasse.