Berlin is a place of architectural experimentation, of unique and sometimes fantastic experiments that have no counterparts in other cities. Some of the first gems of Modernist and Expressionist architecture can be found here. What has been forgotten is however the gems of Post-modernism, a period much maligned and despised, but which never the less still is hugely influential in the contemporary architecture. Most of the contemporary architecture has its roots in the Post-modern movement, whether we like it or not. Post-modern architecture was much more than the re-arrangement of architectural symbols in amusing new constellations that it is often reduced to. Post-modernism was also a period of liberation, suddenly, every aspect of architecture could be questioned, and inspiration could come from a much wider range of sources than ever previously.
Berlin has quite a few gems of the Post-modern 1980’s, many of them built as part of the IBA 1987, an architectural exhibition that produced a wide range of architecture, covering a refreshing range of the Post-modern spectrum. Many of the greatest architects at the time, and architects later recognized took part in this giant project. As Post-modernism eventually became associated with the worst aspects of the 1980’s, the IBA and its undeniable influence became, if not forgotten, pushed to the back of the mind, by most architects. For extensive information on the IBA, see Architecture in Berlin.
Now, one of the most interesting buildings of the IBA, the Hejduk tower, is under the threat of a very unloving modernization, and suddenly we have to start trying to preserve buildings not even thirty years old. John Hejduk was an enormously influential architect during the 1980’s; he was not only the Dean of Cooper Union, but also one of the “New York Five” along with Richard Meier and Peter Eisenmann, an influential exhibition at the MoMA in New York. His influence on architecture is enormous and often underestimated. His built legacy, however, is very small. During his career, he built only a handful of buildings, one of which is now being ruined in the name of marketability. A unique Post-modern building is reduced to a pastiche of Modernism in a strange turn of events.
Why is it that Berlin, a city with so much empty space, always has to tamper with its architectural heritage? Berlin has a very unfortunate tendency to demolish anything of remotely historical interest. This building may not be appreciated right at this moment, but it is a part of architecture history. We are only now starting to list and preserve Modernism’s better buildings, their qualities were forgotten for almost fifty years before we could see beyond the mistakes. If we need another fifty years to see the qualities in Post-modern architecture, there may be little left to preserve.
I am usually not one to champion preservation, but in this case, I think it is completely motivated. The case for preservation here is not the functionality or marketability of the building, but rather the fact that it is a significant work by a very influential architects of the 1970 and 1980’s. A portion of the architectural history will disappear with the defacing of this building, and I can only urge everybody to sign the petition created to attempt to save the building.
UPDATE 02.04.10- The petition has closed, it appears.Typical.
UPDATE 25.04.10- Great News!