Monday, October 31, 2011


The Chilehaus (Chile House) is a ten-story office building in HamburgGermany. It is an exceptional example of the 1920s Brick Expressionism style of architecture. This large angular building is located on a site of approximately 6,000m² spanning the Fischertwiete Street in Hamburg.

The Chilehaus building is famed for its top, which is reminiscent of a ship's prow, and the facades, which meet at a very sharp angle at the corner of the Pumpen and Niedernstrasse. The best view of the building is from the east. Because of the accentuated vertical elements and the recessed upper stories, as well as the curved facade on the Pumpen street, the building has, despite its enormous size, a touch of lightness.
The building has a reinforced concrete structure and has been built with the use of 4.8 million dark Oldenburg bricks.[1] The building is constructed on very difficult terrain, so to gain stability it was necessary to build on 16-meter-deep reinforced-concrete pilings.
The location's close vicinity to the Elbe River necessitated a specially sealed cellar, and heating equipment was constructed in a caisson that can float within the building, so the equipment can't be damaged in the event of flooding.
The sculptural elements in the staircases and on the facade were provided by the sculptor Richard Kuöhl.  
Noteworthy and slightly apropos is that there is a Mexican restaurant called "Sausalitos" here.  The name of the building has nothing to do with hot peppers, but the country of Chile, nonetheless.  Mega masonry involved here... assuming a 40 hr work week, an average of 20 bricks were laid per minute for two years.  There are also a huge number of windows.  The real architectural accomplishment here is that the building is massively regular without being dull or seeming repetitious.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Berliner Philharmonie

The Berliner Philharmonie is a concert hall in Berlin, Germany. Home to the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, the building is acclaimed for both its acoustics and its architecture.
The Philharmonie lies on the south edge of the city's Tiergarten and just west of the former Berlin Wall, an area that for decades suffered from isolation and drabness but that today offers ideal centrality, greenness, and accessibility. Its cross street and postal address is Herbert-von-Karajan-Straße, named for the orchestra's longest-serving principal conductor. The neighborhood, often dubbed the Kulturforum, can be reached on foot from the Potsdamer Platz station.
Actually a two-venue facility with connecting lobby, the Philharmonie comprises a Großer Saal of 2,440 seats for orchestral concerts and a chamber-music hall, the Kammermusiksaal, of 1,180 seats. Though conceived together, the smaller venue was added only in the 1980s.
Hans Scharoun designed the hall, which was constructed over the years 1960-1963. It is a singular building, asymmetrical and tentlike, with the main concert hall in the shape of a pentagon. The seating offers excellent positions from which to view the stage through the irregularly increasing height of the seat rows. The stage is at the center of the hall, with seats surrounding it on all sides. 

The Philharmonie is highly regarded for the quality of its acoustics. Its typical vineyard style seat arrangement was first introduced through this architecture and became a model for other concert halls including the Denver concert hall, the Gewandhaus in Leipzig and the Sydney Opera House.[1]

I had the opportunity to see a performance of Felix Mendelssohn's 'A Midsummer Night's Dream (Excerpts)', Giovanni Bottesini's 'Fantaisie sur La Somnambule de Bellini' and 'Tarantella' for double bass and orchestra and Antonín Dvořák's 'Symphony No. 8 in G major'.

I will remember most the double bass performance of Janusz Widzyk as it represented to me a level of dexterity and precision that is nearly impossible, yet this unwieldy instrument yielded rich and deep tones under his mastery that resonated well in this impressive venue.

Pan Nordic Building

The Nordic Embassies in Berlin are the diplomatic missions of the Nordic countries to Germany, located in a common building complex, the Pan Nordic Building, in Berlin. The building complex was designed by the architects Alfred Berger and Tiina Parkkinen and completed in 1999.

The Felleshus / Pan Nordic Building, which is open to the public, combines the security, working and representation functions of all five embassies of the Nordic Countries. The countries of northern Europe and their autonomous territories are often referred to as the Nordic countries. They include Denmark, Greenland, the Faroe Islands, Finland, Åland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. The Faroe Islands and Greenland belong to Denmark. Åland is part of Finland.
The house also serves as central passageway to the embassies.

The name »Felleshus« (Danish) denotes the sense the building imbues and what it is used for – a house for all, a house in which to meet and interact. The Felleshus has an auditorium for concerts, readings, film viewings and conferences, exhibition spaces, conference rooms, a spacious terrace and a public canteen.

The facade of the building is panelled with maple wood. The entrance opens up in the form of a centrally placed glass front as high as the building. The glass-roofed entrance hall spans all floors and is flanked by slender columns. On the second floor an extensive exhibition area and the terrace open up. On the next floor is the Nordic canteen.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the German Parliament's resolution to relocate the capital from Bonn to Berlin, the often considered idea of a common Nordic embassy complex was able to be realised. The vision of five national embassy office buildings with one common building open to the public, the Felleshus / Pan Nordic Building, enclosed by a band of copper, corresponded to the fundamental idea of individual freedom, combined with a feeling of unity.

The almost 230 metres long and 15 metres broad copper band is the distinguishing feature of the design of Berger and Parkkinen. It consists of approximately 4,000 pre-patinated lamellas and gives the complex a unified appearance from the outside.

The area inside the copper band, the plaza, is transected by geometric lines. The area within these lines forms the plaza, and the sides of the four intersecting lane strips are defined by the sides of the buildings. The lane strips form streets between the individual embassy buildings. Three water basins between the buildings are an architectural reference to the connecting seas between the Nordic countries.

The embassy buildings, in turn, are grouped to correspond to the arrangement of the countries on the map.

  • Complex and Felleshuse - Berger and Parkkinen;
  • Denmark - 3XN
  • Iceland - PK Hönun;
  • Norway - Snøhetta;
  • Sweden - Wingårdh Arkitektkontor;
  • Finland - Viiva Arkkitehtuuri Oy;

Monday, October 17, 2011

Muskau Park

The Muskau Park (GermanMuskauer Park, officially: Fürst-Pückler-Park Bad MuskauPolishPark Mużakowski), is the largest and one of the most famous English gardens of Germany and Poland.
Situated in the historic Upper Lusatia region, it covers 3.5 square kilometers (1.4 sq mi) of land in Poland and 2.1 km2(0.81 sq mi) in Germany. The park extends on both sides of the Lusatian Neisse river, which constitutes the border between the countries. 
The 17.9 km(6.9 sq mi) buffer zone around the park encompassed the German town Bad Muskau (Upper SorbianMužakow) in the West and Polish Łęknica (Wjeska, former Lugknitz) in the East. While Muskau Castle is situated west of the river, the heart of the park are the partially wooded raised areas on the east bank called The Park on Terraces.   In 2003 a pedestrian bridge spanning the Neisse was rebuilt to connect both parts.

On July 2, 2004, UNESCO added the park to its World Heritage List, as an exemplary example of cross-border cultural collaboration between Poland and Germany. It was added to the list on two criteria: for breaking new ground in terms of development towards the ideal man-made landscape, and for its influence on the development of landscape architecture as a discipline.
During the Battle of Berlin, the original castles and bridges were largely destroyed. The Arnims were dispossessed by the Soviet Military Administration in Germany and since the implementation of the Oder-Neisse line in 1945, the park has been divided by the state border between Poland and Germany, with two thirds of it on the Polish side. Not before the 1960s the Communist authorities slowly accepted the legacy of the "Junker" Prince Pückler. The Old Castle was rebuilt by the East German administration in 1965-72, while the New Castle and the bridges are still being restored.

After the Revolutions of 1989 the German and Polish administration joined forces on the redevelopment of the park ensemble. Since Poland entered into the Schengen Area in 2007, visitors may freely explore both parts of the park without cross-border controls.

Sunday, October 9, 2011


Berliner Dom
Museum Island (GermanMuseumsinsel) is the name of the northern half of an island in the Spree river in the central Mitte district of BerlinGermany, the site of the old city of Cölln. It is so called for the complex of five internationally significant museums, all part of the Berlin State Museums, that occupy the island's northern part:

In my first exploration of this area yesterday, I visited the following:

The Altes Museum (German for Old Museum), is one of several internationally renowned museums on Museum Island in BerlinGermany. Since restoration work in 1966, it houses the Antikensammlung (antique collection) of the Berlin State Museums.[1] The museum was built between 1823 and 1830 by the architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel in the neoclassical style to house the Prussian royal family's art collection.
Exhibits include the Egyptian and Prehistory and Early History collections, as it did before the war. The artifacts it houses include the iconic bust of the Egyptian queen Nefertiti.[2]
Both as a part of the Museum Island complex, and as an individual building, the museum testifies to the neoclassical architecture of museums in the 19th century. With its new industrialized building procedures and its use of iron construction, the museum plays an important role in the history of technology.
Since the classical and ornate interiors of the Glyptothek and of the Alte Pinakothek in Munich were destroyed in World War II, the partly destroyed interior of the Neues Museum ranks among the last remaining examples of interior museum layout of this period in Germany.
In the post-war period, the ruin of the Neues Museum was left decaying for a long period of time. Other museums of the Museum Island used the least damaged areas of the building for storage. Reconstruction work was started in 1986 by the East German government, but it was halted after the fall of the Berlin Wall and German reunification.[4] In the process historical parts of the building were lost. For instance, the last remnants of the Egyptian courtyard were eliminated.
In 1997, planning for the reconstruction project was resumed and English architect David Chipperfield was officially appointed for the project.[4] Sections and fragments of the building were taken out and put in storage. In June 2003 the Federal Government Commissioner for Cultural and Media Affairs Christina Weiss, said on the occasion of the ceremony for the commencement of reconstruction of the museum, that the master plan had "nearly squared the circle: to emphasize the buildings as a historical inheritance, to logically direct the flow of the host of visitors, and to make ready... a modern infrastructure."

Lastly, I saw The Bode Museum on the island's northern tip, opened in 1904 and then called Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum
It exhibits the sculpture collections and late Antique and Byzantine art.  
I was fortunate to have been able to see the special exhibit "Renaissance Faces: Masterpieces of Italian Portraiture" here.  

Most memorable was Da Vinci's "Portrait der Cecilia Gallerani". 
A rich cultural infusion and a great outing to Berlin that I will certainly repeat in the near future. 

Monday, October 3, 2011


Pfaueninsel ("Peacock Island") is an island in the River Havel situated in Berlin-Wannsee, in southwestern Berlin, near the borders with Potsdam and Brandenburg. The island is part of the Palaces and Parks of Potsdam and Berlin World Heritage Site and a popular destination for day-trippers. Pfaueninsel is also a nature reserve in accordance with the EU Habitats Directive and a Special Protection Area for wild birds.
The island remained unused for about 100 years until, in 1793, the Prussian king Frederick William II acquired the island for the Hohenzollern dynasty and had the Pfaueninsel castle built for him and his mistress Wilhelmine Enke. The small Lustschloss, in the shape of an artificial ruin, was placed on the western tip of the island, visible from the king's residence at the Marmorpalaisin Potsdam with an adjacent English garden including a dairy.
His successor Frederick William III turned the island into a model farm and from 1821 had the park redesigned by Peter Joseph Lenné and Karl Friedrich Schinkel, who planned several auxiliary buildings. The king also laid out a menagerie modeled on the Ménagerie du Jardin des Plantes in Paris, in which exotic animals including peacocks were housed. The Palmenhaus ("House of Palms") erected in 1831 caught fire for unknown reasons in 1880 and burnt to the ground. It was suggested that the fire was due to a stray spark from the chimney, as the Palmenhaus had been built out of wood. It was not rebuilt, but stone columns trace the outline of the building.
In the post-war period the Pfaueninsel belonged to the western part of Berlin in the Zehlendorf district, what is now the district of Steglitz-Zehlendorf. The island had largely retained its intended character as an idyll of nature: in addition to several free-ranging peacocks, other native and exotic birds can be found in captivity, complemented by a rich variety of flora. 
The entire island is designated as a nature reserve and since 1990 has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with the castles and parks of Potsdam-Sanssouci and Berlin-Glienicke.

I ventured here on my first outing to Berlin from Cottbus on a lovely Saturday.  In the process, I acquainted myself with the Berlin transport system, including the S-Bahn, the Bus and the U-Bahn, all reasonable and well planned networks.  

What struck me as particularly unique on this island was how far removed the nearby Hauptstadt seemed.  Even as I observed the shoreline on Wannsee, the marks of  a massive population seemed entirely obscure.  I thoroughly enjoyed walking the trails of the island and for visitors, it certainly serves as a rural retreat from urbanity.  The architecture is self-consciously not serious, and I think that this adds to Pfaueninsel's character as a kind of playground rather than a resort.  The unpretentious and non-commercial flavour of this place is what I will remember most, though the fauna and flora were also quite pleasant as well.