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    $625 million of projects fast tracked in Victoria

    The Victorian government has approved another round of major projects as part of its push to fast-track planning approvals to boost the economy.
    Planning minister Richard Wynne announced approvals for projects worth a total of $625 million across metropolitan, rural and regional Victoria. Most of the projects are office buildings.
    At 462-482 Swan Street in Richmond, a $130 million, 13-storey office building designed by Architectus will be built. In planning documents, Architectus states that the building’s design draws on the high street facade typology prevalent along Swan Street. “The layered hierarchy of detail sets a legible rhythm along the street with the interplay of depth diluting the mass of the large street wall frontage,” state the architects.

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    36-52 Wellington Street by Jackson Clements Burrows.

    In Collingwood, a 15-storey, 5-green star commercial development designed by Jackson Clements Burrows has been approved. Costing $85 million, the 36-52 Wellington Street building responds to the industrial context.

    “Referencing surrounding warehouse building typologies, a rhythmic and visually cohesive brick facade to the ground and podium levels and upper levels to the east,” state the architects in planning documents.
    And in Frankston, a $116 million, 8-storey office building will be built at Bayside Shopping Centre, 12 Balmoral Walk. To be known as the Balmoral Building, it is designed by Lyons with landscape architect Openwork. Planning documents describe an “urban, porous, and site-specific ground plane” that will become an “exemplar for future privately owned public spaces in the city.”

    The other projects approved include a $24.2 million mixed-use development at 69-75 Mortlake Road, Warrnambool; two four-storey apartment complexes including 53 social housing units in Reservoir valued at $74 million; and a 72-megawatt solar farm on Wangaratta-Kilfeera Road in Laceby, valued at $93 million.
    “We know how important the building and development sector is to our economic recovery and we’re continuing to support the industry with a pipeline of shovel ready projects,” said Wynne. More

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    Projects cancelled, jobs lost and fees undercut: ACA survey

    The Association of Consulting Architects’ final “pulse check” survey of 2020 has found around $10 billion worth of work has been cancelled or delayed and architects don’t expect the federal budget to help.
    The survey generated responses from 511 practice that represent 5,600 full time equivalent technical staff.
    The practices reported a total of $4 billion in cancelled work and $6 billion in delayed work. However, 43 percent of respondents have had projects restart and another 17 percent anticipate projects to restart soon. One-third of practices have had no cancellations.

    A small number of practices have had a “worryingly high proportion of projects cancelled or delayed” and 20 percent of respondents face immediate work shortages.
    The pattern of delays and cancellations in Victoria is similar to nationwide trends: the private residential, commercial and multi-residential sectors have had high proportions of delayed or cancelled work.

    More than two-thirds of practices have experienced losses in revenue, with some experiencing as much as a 60 percent decline. In Melbourne, 80 percent of practices have experienced losses in revenue.

    The survey also found that 529 employees have had hours reduced, 109 have been stood down and 97 employees have been made redundant. Of contract workers, 82 have been stood down or had their hours reduced.

    More than 80 percent of practices reported that Job Keeper had prevented staff redundancies and stand downs.
    However, respondents also expressed concern that some firms may be using Job Keeper to undercut the fees of others.
    “One wonders if JobKeeper has artificially allowed architects to reduce fees to win jobs with extremely low quotes. If so architects have cut each others necks,” one responded.

    Another said, “We have heard that some practices are deliberately not billing to make sure they are under 30 percent compared to previous year’s income to stay on JobKeeper. We have also heard that these practices are factoring JobKeeper when submitting fees and significantly undercutting their fees to win work. A dangerous practice that will lower client expectations of our value in the long term. We have lost several jobs recently where the winning architect was less than half the fee of the other architects. It looks like JobKeeper has created an uneven playing field to the detriment of the profession.”

    The survey also questioned practices on whether they would take advantage of measures announced in the federal budget, including the instant asset write-off, the temporary loss carry-back scheme, and the JobMaker Hiring Credit Scheme.
    “Few respondents envisage definitely taking advantage of the initiatives in the budget,” the survey found. “It is clear that the JobMaker Hiring Credit scheme will not offset the impact of reduced JobKeeper and will be of little benefit to architectural practices or the people they employ.” More

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    Another plea to halt Australian War Memorial project

    Another group of prominent Australians have penned an open letter calling on the prime minister, Scott Morrison, to halt the proposed $498 million redevelopment of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.The letter comes after the Australian Heritage Council made submissions against the proposal as part of the consultation process under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act.“We urge the Australian Government not to accept the current proposal. It should be withdrawn and significantly amended, or EPBC Act approval should be refused,” the group said.Signatories to the letter include architects Roger Pegrum, Penelope Seidler and Penleigh Boyd, professor of architecture Don Watson, heritage architect Eric Martin and architectural historian Peter Freeman. Also signing was John Denton, whose practice Denton Corker Marshall designed the under-threat Anzac Hall. Five organizations, including Docomomo Australia and the Australian branch of the International Council on Monuments and Sites, are also signatories.Many of the signatories are part of a group of 88 prominent Australians who signed an earlier open letter to the government in March 2019, which also called on the government to abandon the redevelopment plans.Despite the growing chorus of critics, the Australian War Memorial continues to defend redevelopment plans, describing the existing Anzac Hall as “no longer fit for purpose.”
    The Australian War Memorial development project will have major heritage impacts on the Memorial, a place that has deep meaning for all Australians. The intervention by the Australian Heritage Council, the government’s principal adviser on heritage matters, shows that reconsideration of the project is imperative.
    The Council is chaired by the Hon. Dr David Kemp AC, a former Cabinet minister. Its recent submission to the Memorial under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC) 1999 concluded thus:
    Regrettably the Council cannot support the conclusion that the proposed redevelopment will not have a serious impact on the listed heritage values of the site and recommends that the matters above [set out in the Council’s submission] be given serious attention.
    While the signatories to this open letter have multiple perspectives on the many issues raised by the project, we strongly support the Council’s views and are united in our concerns about the heritage impacts. These impacts include:
    the proposed demolition of the award-winning Anzac Hall (2001);
    the loss of the free-standing form of the Memorial building, to be swamped by a huge glazed addition (that will also be visible down Anzac Parade);
    the loss for most visitors of the existing commemorative entry, with entry mostly being via the lower ground level; and
    on the overall landscape setting of the Memorial from changes to the Parade Ground in front of the Memorial, the expansion of other buildings on site and the overall hardening of what is currently a respectful balance of built and landscape elements.
    The Memorial must be supported to achieve its core functions, but this should (and can) occur without damage to its core commemorative strength – the iconic heritage building and site.
    We urge the Australian Government not to accept the current proposal. It should be withdrawn and significantly amended, or EPBC Act approval should be refused.
    In view of the importance of this issue, a copy of this letter has been forwarded to the Ministers for the Environment and Veterans’ Affairs, the Acting Chair of the Public Works Committee and Members of the House of Representatives.
    Yours faithfully, the following organisations and individuals,
    Organisations
    Australia ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites): Helen Lardner, President
    Australian Historical Association: Professor Melanie Oppenheimer, President
    Docomomo Australia: Dr Scott Robertson, Australian President (Docomomo is the international organisation concerned with the documentation and conservation of buildings and areas of modern architecture)
    National Trust of Australia (ACT): Gary Kent, President
    Walter Burley Griffin Society (Canberra Chapter): Brett Odgers
    Individuals
    Geoff Ashley, heritage consultant
    Blake Ayshford, screen writer
    Vicken Babkenian, researcher, Australian Institute for Holocaust and Genocide Studies
    Paul Barratt AO, former Secretary, Department of Defence
    Professor Emerita Joan E Beaumont AM FASSA FAIIA, Australian National University
    Dr Margaret Beavis, Vice President, Medical Association for Prevention of War
    Professor Diane Bell
    Professor Frank Bongiorno AM
    Max Bourke AM, founding Director, Australian Heritage Commission (later Council)
    Penleigh Boyd, architect
    Dr Alison Broinowski AM, former Australian diplomat
    Richard Broinowski AO, former Australian diplomat
    Bishop George Browning, former Anglican Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn
    Pamela Burton
    Richard Butler AC
    Professor Marie Carroll
    Dr Peter Cochrane FAHA, historian, Hon. Associate, University of Sydney
    Peter G. Corlett OAM, sculptor
    Associate Professor Martin Crotty, University of Queensland
    Paul Daley, author and journalist; Walkley Award winner
    Professor Joy Damousi FASSA, Director, Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences, Australian Catholic University
    Mark Dawes, former Assistant Director, Branch Head, Corporate Services, Australian War Memorial
    Emeritus Professor Phillip Deery, Victoria University
    John Denton, architect, Australian Institute of Architects gold medallist
    Dr Meredith Edwards AM
    Hon. Elizabeth Evatt AC
    Dr Romain Fathi, Senior Lecturer in History, Flinders University
    Stephen B. Flora, veteran and citizen
    Peter Freeman OAM, architectural historian, conservator and writer
    Dr Bill Gammage AM FASSA, historian
    Dr Rolf Gerritsen, Professorial Research Fellow, Charles Darwin University
    Paddy Gourley, former First Assistant Secretary, Department of Defence
    Emeritus Professor Tom Griffiths AO FASSA
    Major General Steve Gower (Ret’d) AO, AO Mil, Vietnam veteran, former Director, Australian War Memorial
    Dr David Headon, historical consultant
    Alistair Henchman RPIA, tourism planner
    Dr Carolyn Holbrook, ARC Senior Fellow, Deakin University
    Dr Douglas Hynd, Adjunct Research Fellow, Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture
    Professor Tracy Ireland, Professor of Cultural Heritage, University of Canberra; editor, Historic Environment
    Dr Benjamin T. Jones, Central Queensland University
    Brendon Kelson, former Director, Australian War Memorial
    Dr Julie Kimber, Senior Lecturer, Politics and History, Swinburne University of Technology
    Emeritus Professor Hon. Dr Carmen Lawrence, chair, Australian Heritage Council 2010-18
    Richard Llewellyn, former Registrar, Australian War Memorial
    Dr Judith McKay, former Curator, Australian War Memorial; former member, Queensland Heritage Council
    Professor Mark McKenna, Chair, Department of History, University of Sydney
    Dr Michael McKernan, historian; former Deputy Director, Australian War Memorial
    Eric Martin AM, heritage architect; former access consultant, Australian War Memorial
    John Menadue AO, publisher
    Stewart Mitchell, former head of heritage, buildings and services, Australian War Memorial
    John Myrtle
    Dr Douglas Newton, historian
    Brett Odgers, Walter Burley Griffin Society (Canberra Chapter)
    Professor Melanie Oppenheimer, Chair of History, Flinders University; President, Australian Historical Society
    Roger Pegrum, architect
    Margaret Pender
    Michael Piggott AM, former Senior Curator, Australian War Memorial
    Richard Reid, former Senior Historian, Department of Veterans’ Affairs
    Professor Henry Reynolds
    Professor Noah Riseman, Australian Catholic University
    Associate Professor Tilman Ruff AO, Co-President, Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War
    Professor Lyndall Ryan AM
    Penelope Seidler AM, architect
    Wendy Sharpe, artist and Australian War Memorial official war artist
    Professor Peter Stanley FAHA, UNSW Canberra
    Dr David Stephens, convener, Heritage Guardians
    Professor Alistair Thomson FASSA, Professor of History, Monash University
    Shobha Varkey
    Dr Sue Wareham OAM, President, Medical Association for Prevention of War
    Don Watson, author
    Dr Don Watson FAIA, Adjunct Professor of Architecture, University of Queensland
    Dr Peter Watts AM, Emeritus Director, Historic Houses Trust of NSW
    Ernst Willheim, Visiting Fellow, ANU College of Law
    Janet Wilson, retired librarian
    JB Windeyer
    Professor Angela Woollacott, Manning Clark Professor of History, ANU
    Professor Clare Wright, Professorial Research Fellow and Professor of History, La Trobe University More

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    Art Gallery of NSW historic buildings to be refurbished as part of Sydney Modern project

    The Art Gallery of NSW will restore and revitalize a series of spaces in its existing historic buildings as part of the $344 million Sydney Modern project.
    The gallery has appointed Tonkin Zulaikha Greer to undertake the works, which will restore space in the original 19th century building as well as the 20th century additions.
    The works will restore original architectural features of the building and enhance visitor experience and sustainable operations. The upgrades will be sympathetic to the existing gallery’s architecture.

    “TZG is  excited to be a part of the revitalisation of the Art Gallery of NSW. The Gallery is a vital and vibrant part of the state’s culture, evolving  for more than a century under successive designers to meet an expanding and changing public role,” said Peter Tonkin, a director of Tonkin Zulaikha Greer Architects.
    “To support the Sydney Modern Project and the future needs of the Gallery, we are weaving a sequence of new facilities into the existing building, respecting its tradition of significant architectural quality and improving its environmental and functional performance.”

    These include restoring the original entrance vestibule in the original building designed by Walter Liberty Vernon and the refurbishment of Vernon’s original grand courts, adding energy-saving LED lighting.

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    Historical interior night view into Gallery from the northern sculpture court.
    Image: Max Dupain / AGNSW
    In the 1970s wing designed by Andrew Andersons, the design proposes to reinstate the internal balconies overlooking a double height atrium which will provide a visual connection between the two levels and create a more dramatic experience of the gallery’s collection of large-scale 20th century Australia art.
    The existing large windows on the north-east facade of the wing will also be revealed to provide direct views to the art garden of the new SANAA-designed addition, currently under construction.

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    Historical interior view of the new Australian courts.
    Image: © Estate of Max Dupain / AGNSW
    The Capon Research Library and National Art Archive will be relocated to a larger, fully accessible space on lower level 3. A temporary exhibition space will be relocated from lower level 1 to lower level 2, which will provide more space, higher ceilings and upgraded LED lighting.
    There will also be new and upgraded public amenities and new and expanded facilities for the gallery’s members and volunteers.
    The original gallery building was designed by NSW government architect Walter Liberty Vernon and constructed between 1896 and 1909, though it remained incomplete. In 1972, a new wing designed by Andrew Andersons was opened. And in 1988, an extension to the east, also designed by Andrew Andersons, doubled the size of the gallery and included more display spaces, a 300-seat theatre and a new expanded gallery for Asian art. Both additions received the Sulman Medal, in 1975 and 1989. In 2003, a new Asian art gallery designed by Richard Johnson was opened.
    The refurbishment and restoration works will begin in 2021 and are expected to be completed in 2022 to coincide with the completion of the new building by SANAA. More

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    The environment minister must reject war memorial proposal: Institute

    The Australian Institute of Architects has called on the federal environment minister Susan Ley to reject a redevelopment proposal for the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
    The Institute argues that the proposed demolition of the existing Anzac Hall designed by Denton Corker Marshall, completed in 2004, violates legislated heritage protections.
    Former national president of the Institute Clare Cousins says the government should heed the advice of heritage experts, including the Australian Heritage Council.

    “All of the heritage advice has been consistent in finding that the demolition of Anzac Hall will – unequivocally – have a significant negative impact on the Australian War Memorial’s heritage value,” she said.
    “The strength and value of Australia’s legislated environmental and heritage protections would be undermined if such a violation of the Heritage Management Plan for this iconic site were permitted to proceed.”

    The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE) has released final documentation from the assessment of the redevelopment proposal under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

    The Institute is “deeply concerned” at the apparent “numerous inconsistencies and questionable assertions” contained in the documents.

    DAWE asked the Memorial to undertake a ‘specific social heritage survey’ in February 2020 following widespread condemnation of the demolition plans.
    “The Memorial has relied on the results of this survey to argue that there is ‘Broad support…for all elements of the Project including the replacement of Anzac Hall’. However, the copy of the survey included in the EPBC Act documentation appears to contain no specific questions about the demolition of Anzac Hall,” Cousins said.

    More than 80 percent of the 167 submissions received were opposed to the replacement of Anzac Hall.
    “The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE), as custodian of our national environmental and heritage protection laws, has a responsibility to be a fair and independent arbiter in assessing the redevelopment proposal,” Cousins said.

    “The strength and value of Australia’s legislated environmental and heritage protections would be undermined if such a violation of the Heritage Management Plan for this iconic site were permitted to proceed.

    “In the face of widespread concern the Memorial’s executive seem to be just digging in their heels and reverse engineering consultation outcomes rather than taking on board legitimate concerns and amending their proposal, we urge the Minister to have the current EPBC referral withdrawn with instructions to pursue alternative solutions that meet both the current and future needs of the Memorial while also preserving its physical and social heritage values.”
    A parliamentary committee is also looking into the redevelopment proposal in relation to its purpose and suitability, cost effectiveness and the amount of revenue it would generate. The committee received a record number of submissions, the majority of which oppose the project. More

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    Emerging Perth architect elected deputy mayor

    Perth architect Sandy Anghie, winner of the 2020 WA Emerging Architect Prize, has been elected as the deputy mayor of the City of Perth.
    Anghie, who ran for council on a platform that included building an Indigenous Cultural Centre, “energizing” the CBD and connecting it to Kings Park and the Swan River, was voted into the role by five of eight elected members present at a special council meeting on Tuesday 17 October.
    She will serve alongside newly elected mayor Basil Zempilas, a sports presenter and commentator who has controversially vowed to maintain his media roles with Seven West Media and The West Australian.

    Zempilas won the mayorship on 29.44 percent of the vote, beating former ABC journalist Di Bain by just 284 votes. Anghie, who won 8 percent of the vote in the mayoral race, said her vision for the city aligned with that of Zempilas.
    “It’s a real privilege to serve alongside the Lord Mayor as his deputy so I’m really looking forward to that role,” she told reporters.

    Having started her career in corporate tax law, Anghie studied architecture at the University of Western Australia from 2006. She has since worked at the Office of Government Architect, Syrinx Environmental and Hassell, and has established her own practice, Sandy Anghie Architect.

    She is also the editor of The Architect, the official magazine of the Western Australian chaper of the Australian Institute of Architects, and writes the “Meet the Architect” column for The West Australian.

    The jury of The Australian Institute of Architects’ WA 2020 Emerging Architect Prize praised Anghie for her role in founding the non-for-profit Historic Heart of Perth.
    “Sandy is recognized as being instrumental in the establishment of the Historic Heart project, seen as a catalyst for the revitalization of the east end of Perth,” the jury stated. “Her leadership and contribution to the project is commendable and has helped promote meaningful community engagement with heritage architecture and its value.”⁠⠀
    In her role on council, Anghie has vowed to focus on practical solutions for people experiencing homelessness and to aim for “social, economic and environmental sustainability.”
    She says she wants to build the “assets and identities” of the city’s neighbourhoods while supporting business and encouraging entrepreneurship. More

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    NSW government introduces public space charter

    The NSW government has released a draft public spaces charter outlining a series of principles for a state with “more and better” public spaces.
    A focus on public spaces has been a feature of the government’s messaging on urban development, with a new ministerial portfolio for public spaces created in 2019.
    The proposed charter would be a resource to support the planning, design, management and activation of public spaces across the state.
    It has been released for public comment alongside a draft “evaluation tool,” which has been developed with an international peer review panel, and is designed as a simple site survey that anyone can use to identify a public spaces strengths and areas for improvement. The information could be used to inform future planning, design, and investment.

    Alex O’Mara, group deputy secretary at the planning and environment department, said the initiatives would help support the government’s priorities for greener spaces, which aims to increase walkable access to quality public space.

    “COVID-19 is changing the way we use public space and has shone a light on how vital these places are to support healthy, happy, resilient communities,” she said.
    “We want to use everything in our toolbox to consolidate and improve what we have and create more. We’re asking the community to help us design a tool that will allow people to tell us what they like about public spaces and where we can improve.”

    The ten principles outlined in the charter are: open and welcoming; community-focused; culture and creativity; local character and identity; green and resilient; healthy and active; local business and economies; safe and secure; designed for people; and well-managed. You can read the draft principles here.
    The draft public spaces charter and evaluation tool will be on public exhibition until 17 November. All state government agencies will be asked to endorse the final charter and local government and industry will be encouraged to adopt its principles. More

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    Why are Berlin’s new buildings so intent on looking backwards?

    Berlin is a city in reverse, if its buildings are anything to go by: each year great swathes of it are transformed into an approximation of the imperial capital it once was. This process has come to a head with the resurrection of the Berlin Palace, which, after numerous setbacks, is due to open in December as a museum, but its effects can be seen throughout the capital, and indeed the country as a whole. Palaces are rebuilt, as are entire medieval quarters, and new development is prescribed a strict historic drag. Why is modern Germany, by some measures the most successful European state of the 21st century, so consumed by nostalgia for the city of the past?
    The reconstruction of the Berlin Palace is the most obtrusive instance of this tendency. The enormous baroque structure currently nearing completion at the capital’s centre stands on the site of the Palast der Republik, an equally vast modernist complex built between 1973–76 by the government of East Germany as a combined leisure centre and parliament. That structure stood in turn on the site of the imperial palace, which had been damaged during the Second World War and pulled down by the GDR; their own replacement for the building was demolished after reunification.
    Although the campaign to rebuild the old palace was first waged in the early 1990s, a lack of funds delayed this Cold War project until recently, and the intended function of the building was never clear. Finally, it was decided that it should host the Humboldt Forum, a museum and research institute displaying ethnographic collections largely assembled during the empire. Unsurprisingly, a new-build imperial palace has proven to be a provocative home for colonial booty, especially given the increasing momentum behind the campaign for restitution of such artefacts.
    In Germany, as the ongoing controversy over the palace demonstrates, the struggle of the present with the past is endless, and its implications for the city delicate; particularly so in Berlin, a city still tormented by its 20th-century wounds. Critics have observed that the erasure of East German traces such as the Palast der Republik is, like the filling of lots left vacant by the war, designed to produce a false historical unity: the expression of an urge to forget the unhappy episodes that have been the focus of much official Erinnerungskultur, or remembrance culture. Debate over this strategy has been fierce, with some residents of the former east (for example) feeling that their own pasts are being erased in the process.
    Furthermore, this smoothing of traumatic ruptures does not seem overly concerned with Nazi relics – the current German finance ministry occupies the erstwhile headquarters of Göring’s air force, for example. Indeed, quite the contrary could be asserted. While modernist structures are being demolished around the country, as in the case of Frankfurt’s brutalist town hall, new construction is bent not only on recovering the imperial city: it often looks disconcertingly like the architecture of the National Socialists. The water separating the architecture of these two eras is dangerously murky. Although its current advocates, such as Hans Kollhoff and David Chipperfield, may claim they are harking back to the great early 19th-century architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel, this turn to neoclassicism tends to evoke the 1930s, inevitably since the last turn away from modernism to columns in the city was undertaken at that time. In some cases, this ambiguity even seems intentionally cultivated.
    The new-old palace, for instance, is not a perfect simulacrum. The east facade is devoid of ornament, offering instead a bare grid that nonetheless suggests the proportions of classical architecture. This etiolated classicism, stripped of ornament except for the implication of columns, is not inherently fascistic – it can also be found in London and Washington – but it was the preferred mode of fascist regimes, and the monumental reappearance of this trope in the centre of Berlin can hardly fail to recall Speer and Hitler’s design for a new world capital. The palace is not the only instance of this tendency: the German intelligence service’s huge new headquarters which opened in 2019, the largest such facility in the world, meets the street with two severely classicising pavilions. These are reminiscent of the long-demolished Ehrentempel in Munich, twin monuments to the Nazis killed in the Beer Hall Putsch.
    The Gropiushaus in the Hansaviertel quarter, Berlin, which was reconstructed in the late 1950s and early ’60s and includes apartment blocks designed by Walter Gropius, Alvar Aalto and Oscar Niemeyer. Panther Media GmbH/Alamy Stock Photo

    Berlin’s retrograde motion can be attributed in part to its post-reunification building codes. The enforced maintenance of pre-1945 rooflines, materials, and street patterns has resulted in the city’s relative coherence, which was the proclaimed intention of this strategy. Instead of the chaos of more liberally regulated cities such as London, and the supposedly dehumanising post-war towers at Berlin’s edges, the advocates of what is called ‘critical reconstruction’ – developed in the 1970s by architect Josef Paul Kleihues – argued for an architecture of modest regularity and continuity.
    However, one must ask why this search for lost order overlooked other, less tainted models, such as modernist estates of the 1920s by Bruno Taut, or projects of the 1950s such as the Hansaviertel, with blocks designed by architects including Walter Gropius, Alvar Aalto and Oscar Niemeyer. These were hardly chaotic or ‘dehumanising’, whatever that means in the context of architecture. Despite objections from the planners of reunified Berlin that modernism had no concept of public space, these lushly wooded estates seem more suited to our own ecologically sensitive age than the ‘stony Berlin’ of Prussian militarism (or worse) that is favoured by its current architects.
    Instead we have Kollhoff’s Walter-Benjamin-Platz, a colonnaded square constructed in west Berlin at the turn of the millennium which echoes the severe, grey regularity of the fascist city – ironic, to say the least, given the fate of its namesake. To drive the point home, part of its paving was originally inscribed with a quotation from Ezra Pound’s ‘Usura’ Canto. Benjamin, of course, died fleeing the Nazis; the offending text was removed only this January.
    Walter-Benjamin-Platz, Charlottenburg, Berlin, designed by Hans Kollhoff and built in 2000. Arco Images GmbH/Alamy Stock Photo

    Kollhoff’s design is unusually frank in disclosing its precursors; most of Berlin’s recent classicising architecture is, like the Wilhelmine-esque villas of Petra and Paul Kahlfeldt, or the commercial nonentities around Leipziger Platz, more ambiguous. Yet all of them express a desire to turn back time. The association for the reconstruction of the palace, for instance, is open about the aims of the project: to ‘complete [Berlin’s] historic centre and heal the previously wounded cityscape’. But the desire to live in the past, taken to the extreme of rebuilding an earlier version of the city, can, in a place like Berlin, never be unproblematic. Furthermore, the money and the power to build in Berlin evidently lies in the hands of those who hanker after a very particular version of the city’s story. The reason for this preference is never explicitly stated. Perhaps that is because the implications are still – as yet – unspeakable in a country with Germany’s past.
    From the October 2020 issue of Apollo: preview and subscribe here. More