“So, apropos of IBA, a city of perimeter blocks must, of necessity, be better than a city of Zeilenbauen, but it is far from good enough. Preoccupation with block, in Berlin, is quite excessive (...).”
[Colin Rowe in: The Architectural Review, nr. 1051 “IBA 1984. Berlin as a Model”, 1984]
From the late 1960s, many architects turned their attention back to urban elements and spaces that seemed to have been forgotten for about thirty years: streets, squares, and urban blocks with their courtyards. In the 1970s, these elements returned to be discussed, rethought and designed, both in- and outside academia. An outstanding opportunity to apply the contents of these reflections and experiments into practice was offered in the 1980s in West Berlin by the international building exhibition Internationale Bauausstellung (IBA) Berlin 1987.
This doctoral thesis focuses on the blocks designed for IBA Berlin 1987, especially on these blocks that resulted from the “critical reconstruction” of the historical city’s layout led by the department of the IBA known as “Neubau” (New buildings). Among these blocks, some have been often published and are thus very well-known internationally: It is the case of the block in Ritterstraße Nord or of the one am Berlin Museum. However, there are also many other blocks by IBA whose description has not yet been offered either so extensively nor so systemically. Consequently, an extensive, retrospective study of IBA blocks, one that bases on—and critically considers—typological, morphological, and spatial insights at blocks’ level is complex to undertake. Yet these insights are very important to understand an outstanding phase—the first one after WWII—in the centuries-long development of the typology of the Berlin block.
Which ideas of city and of block guided the 1980s "rebirth" of the block at the IBA? Which consequences had the debates of the 1970s and 1980s for the projects of urban blocks designed for this exhibition? What did they implied for the modern evolution of the Berlin block, a typology with a centuries-long history and its own typological rules? The dissertation answers these questions by studying the theoretical and the historical premises as well as the built outcomes of the IBA 1987. In doing so, it relies on theoretical insights—ranging from the scale of the city to the scale of the house—and on analysis, observations, descriptions, and re-drawings of selected IBA blocks. The overall visualisation of the projects at block level, allowed by these drawings, offers the basis for further critical reflections on the typological, morphological, and spatial features of the selected blocks by IBA.
Among the many lessons that the IBA 1987 still offers to contemporaneity, the one that this research wants to draw concerns the outcomes of a modern reinterpretation of the compact city and its interconnected spaces. These paradigms are still at the center of discussions about the future of many Western cities, whose growth is taking place between densification of the existing and expansion of their boundaries. Considering this, both the achievements and the failures in the projects of the blocks by IBA still provide significant examples for the current practice of urban design.
The doctoral thesis is written within a joint-program of “Cotutelle” between the RWTH Aachen (Supervisor: Prof. Uwe Schröder) and the University of Bologna, in Italy (Supervisor: Prof. Annalisa Trentin).
Anmerkung/en: The Urban Block at IBA Berlin 1979-1987
Jahr: 2017 -