12 September 2009

Juicy, Juicier, Juciest


Architects ∕ Buildings ∕ Politics

The front page of today’s Tagesspiegel bears a striking resemblance to the graphic SLAB produced as part of our protest against the re-building of the Berlin City Palace.

Today’s paper, and our graphic from last year

The story being illustrated by the inverted image is the juicy, scandalous conclusion to a piece of news which has been rumbling away quietly in the culture pages of the papers for a couple of weeks already.

It all started with architect Hans Kollhoff. He won third prize in the design competition for the rebuilding of the Palace, but was unhappy with the murky way in which the commission was awarded to prizewinner Franco Stella by the Federal Ministry for Building (Bundesbauministerium). So he went to the Federal Cartel Office (Bundeskartelamt) to stir up some shit. And shit was duly stirred.

(l-r) Kollhoff, Stella [Images: kollhoff.de; Tagesspiegel (Krauthoefer)]

Result: the Cartel Office declared the commission as null and void, because the Building Ministry broke its own rules by awarding the contract to Stella. Competition rules stipulated that architectural practices may only take part if they a) have an annual turnover of more than 300,000 Euros, or b) have no fewer than 4 employees. In two of the three years declared by Stella, his office had an annual turnover of less than 100k, and to his four employees he included himself. On that turnover you have to ask yourself what his staff were being paid ”¦

That Stella was on shaky grounds from the start must have been well known to the Ministry, since they awarded the contracts not directly to Stella’s firm, but to a construct called Franco Stella Berliner Schloss Humboldt Forum Projektgemeinschaft. Working as subcontractors within this construct are the offices Gerkan Marg and Partner, and Hilmer and Sattler who both also took part in the design competition, but won no prizes. So having landed themselves quite a bit of work through the back door, you can begin to understand why Kollhoff was so mightily pissed off.

The Tagesspiegel speculates that the Ministry were so keen to push through Stella’s designs (which were dull enough to hit the sweet-spot of broad consent), that they were willing to ignore some of their more inconvient competition rules. SLAB shares these speculations.

The Federal Minister for Building, Wolfgang Tiefensee, has responed by basically saying, we’re making great progress, and building will begin in 2010. Well, hurrah.