5 Hidden Contemporary Architecture Highlights in Berlin

photos: Laura Fiorio

The local architect Itay Friedman presents his top five lesser known but most appreciated buildings in Berlin.

Berlins’ urban and cultural experience is composed of numerous structures and architectural marvels, from museums to concert halls, clubs to historical structures, parks, and monuments to statues and government building. All together elegantly compose what we call and define as the rich Berlin urban cultural experience.

As an architect that has been working in Berlin for almost a decade, I find that so many unique and important buildings that contribute profoundly to our cities cultural and social growth in an unprecedented way go unknown and unrecognized.

In Berlin we can find great examples of the purest form of architecture, which unfortunately are not always in the limelight as mostly nowadays architecture is not measured and examined by its own merit but by the name of the architect him/herself.

As Tag der Architektur 2017 is upon us (a yearly event celebrating architecture), created with the support of local architects, foundations and led by the chamber of architects Berlin, I wanted to share my top five buildings that are mostly unknown and that I essentially love the most in Berlin. In my eyes, they represent uncompromised professionalism by colleagues with unwavering resolute to our field, that I am proud to work alongside in the same city.

Apartment House Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin by Barkow Leibinger Architekten

In the back yard of a typical Prenzlauer Berg building block, the architectural office of Barkow Leibinger gave an innovative interpretation to the building rights calculation (GFZ) and created this partly square, partly pyramid-shaped housing project.

The unusual proportions between the shapes as well as irregular windows and the use of two shades of bricks all add to a unique unproportionate approach.

At first glance, this building does not emanate a sense of innovation but when observing the surroundings in which is was erected in conjunction with strict building regulations and height limitations. one can discover the architectural office outwit even the toughest of restrictions and created a one of a kind building that not only integrates flawlessly within its environment complementing its monotonous nature but as well as an autonomous creation within its own rights.

photos: Simon Menges

Where can you see it? Unfortunately, this building is not open to the general public unless you know one of the neighbors.

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Housing at the old city wall Berlin by Atelier Zafari Sohrab Architekten

In the heart of Mitte alongside historical buildings, an ingenious architecturally private home was built by the German with Iranian roots architect Sohrab Zafari.

On a plot of land no larger than 520 sqm, Zafari succeeded in designing and planning a marvelous piece of architecture embodying unique spatial volumes as well as light and viewpoints that can be observed from every corner of its unfolding structure.

A building that is not only iconic but fashionable, that manages to intertwine itself in its gentle surroundings in a most elegant state-of-the-art way.

My appreciation and admiration of Zafari’s work derive from not only his outstanding one-of-a-kind architectural talent but from my field experience and recognition of how tough it is to triumph in the artistic pursue in front of the local building authorities.

photos: Christian Dammert, Aviel Adar

Where can you see it? Waisenstraße 30, 10179 Berlin

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Urban Treehouse by Baumraum Architekten

Although this project seems simple to the naked eye, the Urban Treehouse in Zehlendorf embodies the more playful elements of the architectural field. The initiative for this project was created by the grandfather and grandchild of the family that owned this plot of land. Their vision was to build a treehouse concept in their back yard that would serve as a wellspring of architectural inspiration for family and friends that love and appreciate well-thought design and architecture.

Most commonly tree houses are depicted as something one would build in more rural open areas. Nevertheless, Baumraum Architekten took on and successfully executed the challenge of creating a treehouse that is perfectly adaptable to the neighborhood of Zehlendorf.

photos: Laura Fiorio

Where can you see it? Unfortunately, this building is not open to the general public unless you know one of the neighbors.

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Katharina Grosse Studio by  Augustin und Frank Architekten

This architectural gem is located in the central neighborhood of Moabit in an area that was once mostly used by the German army.

Seemingly what appears to be a simple block of concrete and what some passers-by might consider a somewhat harsh and abrupt act of architecture towards its location is actually quite the opposite.

Within it hides the studio of the well known and successful artist  Katharina Grosse. The Space does not only house her studio but as well a storage facility, archive, offices and living spaces.

Although the building actually sits on the plot lines and therefore has no intermediate zone between private and public, it did not subtract from the architect’s creative solutions to retain privacy at the same time as making sure the building has an abundance of light that is both vital for artistic work and office environment. And that on its own is what makes this building such a successful piece of architecture.

For me, this building represents the highest form of minimalism showing that great design can be achieved with very few materials while retaining the architectural ethics behind its original intent.

photos: Maggie Lee

Where can you see it? Lehrter Str. 57, 10557 Berlin

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Museum for Architectural drawing by Speech Architects

The private museum for architectural drawing situated on the border of Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg was designed by a collection of German architects led by SPEECH, which is one of the leading architectural offices in Russia.

This small and elegant structure by the entrepreneur Sergei Tchoban houses not only architectural drawings and his love for them but as well his wish to create a consecutive act and a follow up  story to the museum and works of the renowned British architect Sir John Soane in London.

Different from all the other buildings I have presented till now, that are measured by their local and technological achievements, to understand the significance of this building in a global architectural context, one would need to dive deeper into the world of architectural history.

But even if you do not have the knowledge nor the interest, just know that this building is in our lovely city of Berlin and has no other like it in the world besides Sir John Soane residence and nowadays museum in London that has long become a pilgrim point for the architectural community globally.

photos: Patricia Parinejad

Where can you see it? Christinenstraße 18, 10119 Berlin

If this article has left you with an open appetite for more architecture I can recommend to you the Tag der Architektur 2017 which will be held on the 24th till 25th of June 2017. During this days you can visit buildings and architectural offices that are opening their doors to the general public. For the complete program please click here.

Text: Itay Friedman

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Itay Friedman is the head architect of a Berlin-based architecture office working on residential and commercial projects in Germany and Israel.
Born in Israel and raised in Singapore and England, he has been living in Berlin, Germany for the past decade and considers his background, work and style as Multi-local rather than multicultural one. To learn more about his work visit his website.

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