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Berlin morphology.

Daniel Libeskind's competition-winning proposals for Berlin's Landsberger Allee introduce a reviving mix of urban textures and functions to a neglected city quarter.

Architectural debate on the final form of its resuscitated capital has been raging throughout Germany ever since Vittorio Lampugnani, then director of the Architecture Museum in Frankfurt am Main, proclaimed the need for an 'architecture of simplicity' in October 1993. His seven point manifesto was attacked, by Daniel Libeskind and other architects, as a 'rappel a ordre', the result of which would be 'the perfect background for the emergence of the one dimensional man' - what in the '30s the Austrian writer Robert Musil, describing another Zeitgeist, called 'the man without qualities'. Nevertheless Berlin's building administrators appear to favour 'simplicity' in the form of rigid block layouts, 'honest' stone facades and a return to a historical pattern.

Competition winners in Berlin have all conformed, so far, to such edicts. It is all the more surprising then that this scheme by Daniel Libeskind was awarded first prize by an overwhelming majority of the competition jury. Was this in answer to Libeskind's accusation of blacklisting, a result of design compromise, or because the architects Gunter Behnisch and Joachim Eble were members of the jury?

In July 1994 Berlin's planning and environmental protection department and the building and housing district departments of Lichtenberg, Marzahn and Hohenschonhausen, invited nine architects, in partnership with landscape architects, to submit planning ideas for 65 hectares around the junction of Landsberger Allee (previously Lenin Allee) and Rhinstrasse. This mixed-use area on the eastern fringe of the city includes eight-to 11-storey prefabricated flats, industrial premises and larger blocks dissected by these two, over-dimensional, through roads. A scene of dereliction, scrub grass verges and concrete, a hierarchy of use and greater definition - between private and public spaces - was needed in this nebulous morass. The winning concept should be a standard against which the numerous building applications from owners and investors, who moved into the area post 1989, could be measured.

In the same way that Libeskind planned not to demolish but regenerate Alexander Piatz, by weaving new structures across, over and under the existing buildings, his solution is to increase density by creating varied environmental experiences between the existing blocks, each defined but flexible enough for further development.

Instead of Berlin's preferred regimentation and uniformity, which anaesthetises the senses, Libeskind introduces granular texture and functions which complement and service each other in a jigsaw (and therefore more cohesive) pattern. His strategy is to produce an alternative morphology. This is planning, not as a metaphor for urban functions, a systematic organiser of forms or restrictor of change, defining static situations, but as enabler, placing functions within a weave of multiple interactions.

Approximately 465 000 [m.sup.2] of new building will be injected into the area: 750 additional residential units, 45 000 [m.sup.2] of shops, 93 000 [m.sup.2] for industrial use, 135 000 [m.sup.2] of offices and service industries and 33 000 [m.sup.2] of public buildings.

A poetic mannerism is evident in the naming of components. The 'Production Wedge' diagonally connects Landsberger Allee and Rhinstrasse with an 'Industrial Lever' of small workshops and larger factories on either side. A 'Market Matrix' complex of shops acts as differential between industry, street and housing. 'Dial', as in the pointer on a measuring instrument, describes office extensions to existing residential units, which break their mono-functionalism. A 'Bazaar Gear' of densely packed shopping opportunities cluster around smaller road junctions to the east. 'Green Gate' is an innovative ecological park with possibilities for a research centre, wind energy farm, autarks (self-sufficient living units), and a telecommunications tower or other defining landmark. Reversion to Walter Benjamin's associative methods, to conjure up the excitement of early mechanisation, pastoral harmony and exoticism, reads like the flaneur yearning for an inspirational city. Planning, as much an act of the imagination as of concrete?

Greening is part of the concept. 'Tree Park', as entrance to the city, includes a series of playscapes, acoustically insulated by walls, hedges and earth mounds, watched over by staff from a care centre. Ground floor flats gain terrace gardens and children's areas are scattered along theme 'Play Ways'. 'Patchwork' is the concept of dispersed rented gardens, 20-25 [m.sup.2], for flat dwellers.

A chequerboard of small-size defensible spaces, without rigidity, aims to maximise social control. The park beyond the shopping areas is foreseen as a lively area of mobile kiosks, skateboarding, rollerskating, streetball and performance art. Ponds, channels, and a lake with promenades will be supplied with cleaned rainwater.

Public transport, pedestrians and cyclists, should take first place. Footpaths and cycle ways will bind places, characterised by different plant species, and building entrances. Speed limit zones, planted strips, shared use of car parking by daytime employees and residents, and underground parking for new buildings, aim to reduce vehicle impact. Building permits, based on previous district plans, now face revision and Libeskind's team has the delicate task of agreeing details with administrators and site owners.

Completion of the B Plan, a legal document tightly defining critical corners and possibilities, will take up to three years while building north of Landsberger Allee could start in Summer 1996. Over the 20 years it will take to renovate the district, German society may undergo radical change but neither of these two opposing planning philosophies have anything more to offer than consumption as the motor for a lively and colourful environment. The plazas between social housing blocks, in which Modern Movement architects sketched the proletariat at leisure discussing Chekhov, became windswept deserts. Will the ecological park ultimately share the same fate?
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Title Annotation:urban masterplan proposal for Berlin, Germany's Landsberger Allee
Author:Dawson, Layla
Publication:The Architectural Review
Date:Jun 1, 1995
Words:940
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