Into the dust with the enemies of Brandenburg!
Von Adeline Seidel
Not so long ago it was the city that was supposed to be in for a renaissance. Let’s get out of sprawling suburbia’s monotony and into downtown’s grand turn-of-the-century mansions. Living in built-up quarters and being able to enjoy cultural life right on your doorstep, cycling to work, getting your supplies from the organic supermarket and joining in debates with likeminded people, never alone, always on the urban pulse – those were the attractive opportunities city life promised us. Being urban is synonymous with being hip, and especially in Berlin people have not yet tired of emphasizing precisely that.
Mind you, the reality is often quite different. Residential space close to the center of major cities is almost impossible to afford these days. Including in Berlin, where rents for apartments have shot up by almost 40 percent in the last seven years. Exciting architectural projects with cutting-edge residential concepts, such as construction consortiums were promoting in Berlin just a few years ago, are hardly possible to realize in today’s markets. And with every euro added to the square-meter price of construction land, building becomes more difficult – especially as all the affordable gaps between buildings have already been filled. On top of which the much-lauded urban lifestyle will soon reveal the one or other shortcoming in the everyday nitty-gritty: There comes a day when you start cursing the creaking of the streetcar that stops right outside your house every seven minutes, or the bar next door, where people party into the small hours each night. Likewise, family life or paying a visit to the authorities can be difficult to negotiate in the urban jungle.
And yet, where would we be without our passions and desires? Those living in the countryside long for life in the city; those living in the city wish they were in the country. Including Berliners. Who have Brandenburg right on their doorstep. Where everything is easier, as the one or other stressed-out city dweller will readily romanticize – life is more tranquil, relaxing, perhaps even more authentic.
Mind you, rural areas are not only attractive for urbanites, but also for architects. Brandenburg boasts an abundance of superbly located building plots, not to forget plenty of existing buildings waiting to be restored and put to new use. The yearning to live in the country full-time, or even just for an opportunity to retreat on the weekend, and the prospects of modest construction costs are the ingredients that have inspired quite remarkable architectural projects. We will present a selection in our Brandenburg Special.
The architectural projects we have selected have all been developed with care and testify to a fine feel for materials, use and the surrounding rural context. Here the construction process tends to resemble a dialog between the client and the architect, who jointly decide on a goal which they then approach together, a far cry from simply implementing some finalized plan. Take, for example, the erstwhile worsted yarn spinning mill, which architect Detlev Delfs transformed into loft apartments, studios and a children’s daycare center ten years ago. Or the family country retreat on Scharmützelsee by the architects at Augustin + Frank, which appears to be hovering above the ground. Or the careful transformation of Haus Thunecke, a building designated as cultural heritage for which Peter Grundmann devised a new layout. And last but not least, we spoke with “urban exodus consultant” Thomas Kröger about his buildings, which are destined to make rural living a success, and about ways to reconcile small budgets and clients with a passion. Brandenburg – architecture’s promised land? Maybe so. In any case a vast stretch of land for exciting building projects away from overpriced townhouses on the urban periphery.