PURE COMPRESSION

Architect JÖRG EBERSs tricky building in Berlin.

This building is a surprise. It can be found on Auguststrasse in Berlin, where this capital is how one imagines the city when they are not in it – pubs, galleries, and old façades behind which people with done-up hair  do things we call creative – and here, in the heart of the so-called “Neue Mitte,” the building stands looking out onto the city with its large windows. Infamously, since German reunification, there has been little room for architectonic experimentation in Berlin and, for the many idiosyncratic young architects in the city – who one forgets pretty quickly in the near omnipresence of older master builders and their all too accommodating students – space has been more than scarce. But now there is this building by Jörg Ebers, born in 1969; maybe this construction, though not particularly big or spectacular, is a signal to a new generation of Berlin architects, and is a new, vivacious way of thinking about city living.

“One wanders through the floors as if wandering through the twisted alleys of a southern Italian village.”

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The most astounding aspect of Ebers’s narrow city apartment building is not its unobtrusively unusual facade set off by expansive windows, a faintly futuristic door with small round windows, and glistening green mosaic stones made of a hardened brew of sandstone building materials and boxy punch windows. It is most astounding that the building is here at all – because actually, nothing was supposed to have been built here. The modest gap in the block, a mere eight meters wide and twenty meters deep, had been declared off limits to builders by the authorities. Ebers still bought the property, and at a very good price; and his successful attempts to erect a building kept no fewer than fifteen Berlin officials busy with his inquiries.

Brüstung_f7Permission to build came by way of a trick: Ebers kept within the bounds of the Berlin Building Authority for “apartment buildings with no more than two apartments,” a regulation that exempts duplexes on open fields from needing a separate staircase with smoke-repellent doors. This regulation does not specify the arrangement of the living units. So not only can one set them next to each other, side by side; one can also stack them. Which is what Ebers did on his tiny property. He more or less turned the regulation around 90 degrees, and scored himself an admirable little construction that opens up new perspectives for building city apartments in space-saving ways.

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The building Ebers raised on his property – more or less winging it with thrown-together funds and no builder – consists of a store, a separate apartment, and a larger apartment on top in which rooms lead into one another over five different levels.

Ebers’s building is like the city around it, thriving on the principle of compression. Within its tight space, it sets impressions of rooms together you would not see in villas four times its size. The narrowness radicalizes the space – in one corner, the building gives the impression of a modernized cottage, while, with the very next step, one practically falls through the glassed panoramic view into the city. One wanders through the floors as if wandering through the twisted alleys of a southern Italian village. It is no more expensive than a new, run-of-the-mill apartment building and, by comparison, it is more open to experimentation and fresh ideas. It impressively demonstrates that a small foundation can be an opportunity, not a disadvantage. If there were more buildings like these, the commuters still hoping to find happiness in the resource-devouring jungle of row houses might be convinced to live in the city after all.


Architecture 36Berlin 13
Jörg Ebers
Profile 32

Published in

Issue #9 — Summer 2005We Are Synchro Time

“The extreme compression—the thickness—of the present, as we’ve only just now become able to experience it, brings with it an acceleration and a deceleration simultaneously—that’s why it’s also become extremely difficult to differentiate between the just past and the present,” says curator CHRIS DERCON on his theory of SYNCHRO-TIME.

Meanwhile, artist JAN DE COCK mixes Minimalism in Basque Country; Hungarian photographer GYÖRGY LÖRINCZY documents the feverish instability of downtown New York in the 1970s; artist collective ASSUME VIVID ASTRO FOCUS flaunts what’s sexy, devastating, awesome, and precious; artist CARSTEN NICOLAI pulses crystals with sound; writer DAVID FRANKEL uncovers the perfect absurdity about 1970s cult magazine ART-RITE; fashion historian CAROLINE EVANS distills HUSSEIN CHALAYAN’s utopia;

VITO ACCONCI practices an un-monumental architecture; photography duo INEZ VAN LAMSWEERDE and VINOODH MATADIN showcase MAN; photographer LEONORE MAU captures the Angel of History, rituals, and ethnography; art critic NIKLAS MAAK says goodbye to retro-futurism; writer ULF POSCHARDT on PRADA’s “Thunder Perfect Mind”; artist JONATHAN MEESE screams, “Richard Wagner is the greatest! He is his own law”;

the Berlin Review reflects on ten events, projects, and people from the last six months in the great cultural laboratory; and so much more on 176 pages …

Contributors: Albert G. Almond, assume vivid astro focus, Jens Balzer, Joachim Bessing, Klaus Biesenbach, Jan de Cock, Giannie Couji, Caroline Evans, Bertrand Fleuret, Nicola Formichetti, David Frankel, Lörinczy György, Heiko Hoffmann, Max Hollein, Ines Kaag, Heinz Peter Knes, Inez van Lamsweerde & Vinoodh Matadin, Niklas Maak, Carsten Nicolai, Ingo Niermann, Ulf Poschardt, Sebastian Preuss, Norbert Schoerner, Sølve Sundsbø, Vier5