20 March 2010

Hejduk – Tremors and Rumbles


Activism ∕ Sick Buildings

News has reached me from Claire Karsenty of Kapok, that the new owners of the Hejduk building have removed the images of their renovation plans from their website, and have replaced them with photos of the building as it is. This is the first visible result of the last few days of campaigning.

The BerlinHaus website. Datestamp: 20th March 2010

The cringingly twee pink awnings may no longer be on display, but the cringingly ignorant headline “Light Apartment in Bauhaus Style” is still there. What is it about property developers and their infantile clutching on to styles? “Italian-style”, “Paris-style”, “loft-style”: it can all be found here in Berlin. Can’t a building be described on its own terms? What is wrong with “Light Apartment in True Berlin Original”? Why does so much of marketing appear to be prescription stupidity?

In my article “Chi-chi la Hejduk” from Monday 15th I posted the renderings via the cautious method of linking to them directly, rather than ripping them. The result is big hole in my article, which I’ve left for posterity. Luckily though, Fanstastic Journal made a hard copy of one, and another arrived in my email inbox:

Expunged renderings. According to the developer, those purple awnings are blue.

The images may be gone, but one can only speculate about what it means for the building. Pressure though, is growing. The online petition has already gathered over 540 signatures since it went online on Thursday afternoon. It’s been interesting to see such names as Peter Eisenmann, Massimo Vignelli or Diller + Scofidio appear.

The list of concerned university faculty members is also impressive reading: the University of Texas School of Architecture, Harvard University Graduate School of Design, Rhode Island School of Design, Universität der Künste Berlin, the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montréal, and of course, Cooper Union, where Hejduk was Dean.

Base coat, or new hue?

Here’s a recap of events:

Renate Hejduk wrote to BerlinHaus in January expressing her concern over the images appearing on their website, showing new purple awnings. She encouraged BerlinHaus to work together with architects who appreciate the importance of her father’s work, underlining the importance of the grey/green colour sceme and her role as an architectural historian and head of the Estate of John Hejduk.

BerlinHaus replied that the new awnings will not be purple, but “light blue”, a change which they insisted had been cleared by the “Monument authority, the Architect’s chamber and the Bauhaus Archiv”. This is a thinly disguised and insulting dismissal: the monument authority have nothing to say on the matter since the building is not listed, and the Bauhaus Archive have no say in the matter because, as the name implies, they curate the archive of the Bauhaus, not the IBA. In an especially pathetic passage, BerlinHaus non-committingly suggest that they might even try to find out what significance the old colour sceme had, and why it might be considered better than their new one.

Matthias Reese of RLW Architekten has been busy pulling strings at the Berlin Association of German Architects, who are to hold their Spring Assembly on Sunday 21st. This resulted in the DAZ, the German Architecture Center, getting on board as well. Kristien Ring, director of the DAZ, informs us that an ‘extra newsletter’ will go out on Monday, addressing the issue to a wide group of architects and architecture interested public.

Florian Köhl of FAT KOEHL, has also been scurrying around the halls of Berlin’s district authorities trying to grab the attention of the Senate Department for Urban Development. Oddly enough, whilst at the Senate Department, he bumped into the architect acting as contractor to BerlinHaus, directly responsible for the mechanics of the renovation. Köhl already knew him from other building projects. Two-fold pressure was applied.

Köhl has also been prodding Blueprint Magazine into running the story. Meanwhile, Robert Slinger of Kapok has been coordination communications behind the scenes, and has been prodding Blueprint Magazine and other members of the UK press into running the story. Abitare, though, have been quicker off the mark.

One strand of the story which is particularly interesting is that of copyright. Renata Hejduk has stated that in the USA, her powers in such a case would be relatively limted. Withdrawing her father’s name from the building, and the removal of the building from architectural listings would be about everything possible. The case for copyright infringement in Germany seems to be stronger though. According to Luise King, Professor for urban development and settlement archeology at the Berlin Technical Universtiy, the building is protected by copyright for 70 years, in which time the Estate of Hejduk can and must be guaranteed a say in matters of profound structural change such as this.

The story is now running in a handful of other websites:

Sleek, Fantastic Journal, Atelier, Nicht winken!, Archinect, Urbanophil

Links to:
The Petition

The Facebook Group