shu and joe

Posts filed under ‘Architecture’


July 6, 2008

I’ve long been fascinated by Roosevelt Island and Louis Kahn’s 1973 FDR Memorial proposal. The project was never realized due to New York’s financial crisis through the 70s and Kahn’s unexpected heart attack in a Penn Station bathroom in 1974. The south tip of the island, where Kahn’s memorial was to be situated, has become hotly contested ground over the past six months as renewed interest in the FDR project has sparked protest from some local residents who claim that Kahn’s plan will obstruct the sublime panoramic views that the site’s current treeless condition affords. has uploaded a few video clips related to the ongoing controversy. In the clip below, Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation President Steve Shane take a walk around the project site with Dick Lutz, managing editor of Roosevelt Island’s local paper, the Main Street WIRE.

No Comments on Kahntroversy

Bucky Fuller – On Building Bridges

Although I’ve already missed much of the Buckminster Fuller-related activity taking over New York this summer, I’m still hoping to catch the Whitney’s show, Starting With the Universe. His utopian dreams may not have been realized, but I don’t think his goal of building bridges for the future can be called a failure.

No Comments on Bucky Fuller – On Building Bridges

Ghost Mall

June 27, 2008

Was just checking out BLDGBLOG, which pointed me to a fascinating story about the world’s largest mall located in Dongguan, China. Abu Dhabi-based The National recently featured a story on the South China Mall, a 7 million square foot shopping complex that, since opening in 2005, has become a beacon of the entropic forces of real estate speculation gone awry. Fewer than a dozen retail spaces currently occupy the mall, which I imagine qualifies it as a kind of self-contained ghost town.

Photo by Philip Gostelow for The National

No Comments on Ghost Mall

Storefront Pop-Up

June 19, 2008

If I were in London this weekend, I’d definitely check out the opening of the Storefront for Art and Architecture’s pop-up shop. The space will feature 6 models from Danish architects BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group) including a tower composed of 250,000 Legos. (Click the video to see it built in just over 3 minutes.)

No Comments on Storefront Pop-Up


June 11, 2008

Post-WWII, millions of cubic meters of rubble were plowed into piles, covered with dirt and left to developing a shroud of greenery. Teufelsberg (Devil’s Mountain) is one such hill—the tallest in Berlin—with a pretty fascinating history. One of the highlights is undoubtedly the NSA audio monitoring center that the US government built on top of the mountain to spy on the Russian and East Germany military. The facility was abandoned after German reunification and sold to a private developer in 1996. The plan was to offer luxury apartments, a resort and a spy museum, but the Berlin bubble put an end to that vision. Large geodesic domes that once protected listening instruments are still intact at the building site, and contribute to an awfully scenic rooftop.

On our visit, we were fortunate to meet up with a park caretaker who showed us around the site and informed us of the latest turn in the history of Teufelsberg: the site was recently purchased by David Lynch, who plans to develop the site into a campus for the study of Transcendental Meditation. Far out. But there’s more.

Lynch apparently announced his purchase and plan for the TM University at a news conference in Berlin last November. At the announcement his German guru, Emanuel Schiffgens, began chanting “We want an invincible Germany!” and asked the crowd to join in. Obviously, the rhetoric incited some disdain from the audience (video here). Yikes – Lynch had better read the transcript before joining the next TM junket.

No Comments on Teufelsberg


May 20, 2008

My most recent fascination has become the eastern region of Mitte from Alexander Platz to Strausberer Platz, between Moll Strasse and the Spree. This quarter is composed primarily of prefab, Modernist plattenbau, except for the Socialist Neo Classical buildings that line the imposing Karl-Marx-Allee. The entire 2km stretch of Karl-Marx-Allee (known as Stalinallee until Stalin’s death) was constructed between 1952–1960 according to a detailed master plan. The landmark domed towers that cap the street’s uninterrupted course from one end at Frankfurter Tor to the circle at Strausberger Platz were designed by Hermann Henselmann, who was appointed head architect of Berlin in 1953. It’s the shorter distance between Strausberger Plz. and Otto-Braun Strasse, however, that I most admire. Here one encounters some compelling modernist-inflected examples of Soviet-styled architecture that, I would guess, made their way onto the Allee’s roster toward the end of its construction period in the early 60s. Josef Kaiser and Herbert Aust seem to be responsible for most of what I’m referring to here—the monumental Kino International, the Art Deco-influenced Cafe Moskau (by Kaiser and Werner Dutschke) and several freestanding, open-plan and largely glass-walled retail structures that front the street (Karl-Marks-Allee 45, for example, which is currently doing duty as a pop-up gallery for Bombay Sapphire, and was recently announced as the site for Friedrich Petzel’s new venture, Capitain and Petzel).

Kino International, Josef Kaiser and Herbert Aust

Kino International, rear view

Cafe Moskau

Karl-Marx-Allee 45

aging plattenbau


Alex Back Shop, Otto-Braun Str.

coffee cup sign, Otto-Braun Str.

There are some interesting photos of this same area from the early 1960s here.

Also, a nice comparison of Karl-Marx-Allee, the East’s major ideo-architectural statement of the period, with the Interbau 57 site in the West is available at architectureinberlin (great blog, well worth spending some time).

2 Comments on Karl-Marx-Allee


April 18, 2008

I’ve been curious about the massive, graffiti-covered, Soviet-styled statue across the street since we arrived at our sublet on Greifswalder Strasse. Walking to the train this morning, I noticed that there was a crew out with pressure washers wiping away the layers of paint. Turns out that the statue is a DDR-era commemoration of Ernst Thälmann, leader of the German Communist Party (KPD) during the Weimar days and twice a candidate for German presidency. His opponent—Paul von Hindenburg, who after winning his second term handed the chancellorship to, well, you know…

No Comments on Cleansing