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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Context and contrast: urban infill in the Spandauer Vorstadt Berlin-Mitte, Germany Byrne, Sean Peter


This project is an urban intervention in Berlin. It consists of three parts: Oranienburger StraBe 19/20, Krausnick StraBe 6, and a mid-block building along a new pedestrian walk which I have called Oranienburger Passage. There is a total of 35 socially-subsidized apartments of varying sizes in the three buildings, five retail/cafe spaces, and eight workshops. There are also two common pavilions, to be administered by the residents, which span over the new passage. The site is in the former East Berlin district of Mitte, in an historical neighbourhood known as the Spandauer Vorstadt. I saw the opportunity to create a public link through the block between Oranienburger StraBe and KrausnickstraBe. It was decided that, in addition to the 20 social housing units at Oranienburger Str. 19/20, an expanded programme was needed to provide an urban edge to the passage. Using Leon Krier's Urban Quarters concept as the theoretical background to the project, it was determined that all activity at the ground level would be non-residential, with residential units above. This creates a public ground plane, and integrates living, working, recreation, and transportation, which is not the case in Modern, functionally-zoned and essentially non-urban city. The activities housed at ground level reflect the nature of the area. Artists' co-ops, experimental theatre and music groups and nightlife all feature prominently again in this district, formerly the centre of the Berlin's Cabaret scene in the 1930s. The sequence of public outdoor rooms is intended as an 'art passage', along which artists may display their work, as is the case in other nearby courtyards. In Berlin there has traditionally been a sharp contrast between the street and the courtyard. The street is the city's formal side. The facades were more detailed and elegant than in the rear courtyards, where little attention was paid to detail, and the buildings developed in a less formal way. I have taken this concept of the facade and incorporated it into the new development. The street walls follow the characteristics of the neighbouring buildings, and the rear courtyard facades are much less regimented, and allow for more glazing and terracing. The front facade of the courtyard building again recognizes the contrast between street and courtyard, creating a sharp distinction between the public passage and the semi-private residential courtyards. Its wedge shape mediates between the height differential of Oranienburger Str. and Krausnickstr., which is a smaller, lower side street. The lower, north end of the building allows for sun penetration into the courtyard of Krausnickstr. 6. The intent of this project is to defer to the historical context of the street, whilst creating a new context in the courtyard, via sharpening the contrast between the hard, urban edge and the soft, forested block interior. The new passage that has been created is seen as a prototype for further similar projects which can serve to reduce the scale of the massive blocks in the area and offer a variety of experiences to pedestrians in a secondary system of passages through the neighbourhood.

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