10 January 2007

Zombie Shopping and Leisure Behemoth


Buildings ∕ Sick Buildings

Berlin’s mega-building-site du-jour has to be the 28,500 sq/m plot of land just south-east of Alexander Platz where a shopping and leisure complex called ‘Alexa’ is heaving itself up out of the ground. The name is a hatchet-job foreignisation of ‘Alex’; the prosthetic ‘a’ at the end of the name is probably a shortcut to southern-european flair, a method which has already been succesfully road tested in the top floor restuarant of the neighboring Kaufhof department store which was hilariously branded ‘Dinea’. Be sure to order a coffea and a bowla of soupa.

Here’s how Alexa looks in an optimistic architect’s vision:

Alexa shoppinga centera

Well, nothing really offensive there you might think. Just your average kind of meat-and-potato mixed-use urban development with weird post-modern lapses (note the weird two story arches on the caboose-style buildings towards the bottom left, and the Albert-Speery tower at the back).

The problem starts on the other side though. The bit they left uniluminated in the above photo. Let’s take a look at how the arse-end is shaping up in real life:


Your eyes are not deceiving you

You would be forgiven for thinking that there are no windows on this building at all. That’s because there are no windows on this building. At all. Not one. The building is about 150 meters long, six floors high, overlooks several residential blocks of flats, is cladded with terracota coloured stone, and has no windows. This building is sociopathic: it hates people.

Here’s a view of the architectural model again for comparrsion, now showing the back:


Where there is delicacy in this model, there is outrageous mass in reality. Where there are subtle greys and greens in the model, there are huge red slabs in real life. Something must have gone terribly wrong. There is no other explanation for it. But there’s more. How about this:

Egyptian burial monument, or cinema?

Whilst human beings are supposed to spend their valuable leisure time inside this thing, from the outside it looks like something ancient Egyptian rulers were laid to rest in. Where bunker-architecture speaks of preserving life, this death-cult necro-architecture speaks the language of death preservation, or immortal life beyond death. Expect mummified shoppers, zombiefied cinema goers, or at least a pending remake of the 1978 film ‘Dawn of the Dead’ where undead corpses roam a shopping mall.

‘Alexa’ at the Senate Department of Urban Development [German]
Ortner & Ortner Architects: deeply weird website of the zombie architects responsible for ‘Alexa’