Bauvorleistung Alexanderplatz      (en|de)

awarded by the the Association of German Architects (BDA) and the Association of Polish Architects (SARP) for Germany's and Poland's best graduation project

Alexanderplatz is the centre of East-Berlin. During its history, the site was was rebuilt many times and lots of proposals were made. During the last century only, three architectural competition were held with the purpose to entirely demolish the site and build it fom scratch. The first one (1928) was about to build a «Weltstadtplatz» a «metropolis square», the second one (1964) succeed to create the centre of a socialist capital and the third competition (1993) headed for the disappearence of the previous Alexanderplatz. This is about to be realized at this very moment.

With every iteration of the tabula rasa, the existing buildings were almost entirely replaced by others. 
 To the contrary, the infrastructure below the surface was getting more and more complex - yet becoming the properly Alexanderplatz.

The ground beneath the square is perforated by various holes, shafts and tunnels. Some spaces are constantly crowded, some are barely known. Most of the surrounding buildings and monuments have burried counterparts. Many shafts fell out of use while many other stayed unused for 90 years.

«Bauvorleistung» is a term from civil engeneering describing a building component that is intentionally build a long time before its actual use, forseeing future problems that will make it much more difficult to do later what could already be done today.

My proposal is a stock for pending futures. An underground depot for unrealized visions, an archive for future archeology. On the one hand the institution is enabling citizens to see what their city will become or what it was once about to look like. On the other hand it's constantly adding promising proposals and lost competition entries from weeping architects.

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A hole is yawning in the middle of the city.
Pipes and tubes are routing out of it feeding into big machines that are rumbling continually.
The hole is filed with black mush, maybe water, that is motionlessly mirroring the surge of people all around. People are everywhere. It is just the pit barrier that keeps them from jumping into the excavation hole.

« B e r l i n ,  A l e x a n d e r p l a t z »   

It could be 1928 or 1953, 1969, 2012, today, tomorrow, time does not count. The giant clock in the middle of the square is just telling you to hurry up. For sure there is a train that you could still catch if you got going. Its almost 1:00 am in New York and we would also like to have a highrise. The old city wasn't keeping with the period. We required a new one. It's beeing built at the very moment. Cranes and stair turrets are already standing like totem poles in the desert. Modern is what it looks like but people prefered the old one. Is that the future?
« F u t u r e s » for a century the very site is made of nothing else. Drafted ones, built ones, not built ones, some that were left behind halfway in the dirt. There is no more history, just aged futures.

It appears as an unwritten law to erase and built the square from sketch every 30 years. The Alexanderplatz. While continually trying
« t o  s o l v e »  the site, it's consciously or unconsciosly made a built expression of an idealized society. But again concrete is crunching in the claws of the digger. that are processing an old vision into bite-sized chunks. A new vision is already on the billboards. Less attractive than the previous one but nively rendered and perhaps all the more contemporary.

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The myth of the square appears to be an utopia projected into the past. Films and books of the 20s like «Symphonie einer Grossstadt» and «Berlin - Alexanderplatz» show it as a modern traffic hub in a dodgy contorted city. in 1928 Martin Hoffmann, head of the city council announces a competition for the «Weltstadtplatz» a metropolitan roundabout. Traffic on various levels going to be its Râison d‘être. Luckhard Brothers win the competition but Peter Behrens is given the opportunity to build because he respects the underground. The subway is being built at that very moment and Behrens is the architect in residence of one of the companies building the lines. AEG.

From then on everything got its subterranean counterpart.

Additionally in order to create a modern prairie on ground level, everything that once overlapped here had to be buried. Principle pipes for heating, data, electricity, airmail, waste- and freshwater are weaving with subterranean torrents, streets, railways and pavements.  Department stores got supply tunnels and underground show windows. Of course the restrooms are below the surface. There are rooms under the fountain of nations and even the famous world time clock got a cellar.

While the buildings above were swapped several times, buildings below
were continuously added, almost never removed.
« V e r s ä t z e  and  R e s t r ä u m e »,
spatial errors and misfittings were created inevitably as built memories of the city, not following the logic of the city above. Especially the Alexanderplatz is perforated with such errors. Blind tunnels, shafts without any function are lying around everywhere beneath the square - not without a destination but consequently leading astray.













Between the interconnected underground stations of U2, U5 and U8, between the car tunnel and numerous lower pavements and supply tunnels, following spaces lie waste:

1 - The biggest rainwater channel of Hobrecht's radial sewage system as a subterranean river, cut off from the current. Built in 19th century, left empty since 1968.

2 - An amputeted system of underpasses as deepened pavements of a car-friendy socialist capital is still under the streets. Bad air bricked in.
Built in 1968, left empty since 2012.

3 - The blind tunnels of U10, an underground line that was never completed. They are «Bauvorleistungen» which means that they are no mistakes but intentional artefacts. Anticipated adapter spaces that seem to negotiate between incompatible times and systems. They are built for an uncertain future in which they might find a use. Often you forget tomorrow what you wanted to do the day after tomorrow. There are loads of those spaces. Mostly built when two underground companies were fighting for passengers trying everything not to create junctions between the systems.Some are built in 1903, some 1928, more or less empty ever since.

4 - The foundation of the «third Behrens» an ambitious high rise that was about to house a cinema, a theatre, a hotel, residential, commercial and office spaces. It was the main building of Behren's 1928 competition proposal. He intended to frame the square with two Blocks and a highrise. After building the Alexander- and Berolinahaus the financial crisis hit the project hard and kept him from finishing the facing tower that was already began deep in the ground. Three underground railway tunnels are already moulded into the footing. It is left as a massive concrete block with a thickness of up to 17m. Nazis later added a three storey air raid shelter that was big enough for 35.000 people and still didn't jut out of the ground.

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Those « u n e m p l o y e d  s h a f t s » are holes that doesn't fit into the system where everything makes sense, is usable and gives a financial return. Those spaces are single-purpose buildings without a purpose. That's what frightens some people. Recently I visited the boweis with forty policemen. The officers were on the scout for ways one could illegally intrude the space where nothing is as illegal as simply beeing present. If they afforded it the structures would be removed immediately. Policemen are terrified by those almost exterritorial holes beneath the centre, those unemployed shafts.

On the other side the initial Alexanderplatz is underground. The subway is the oldest building and everything constituting the myth of Alexandeplatz is buried in the sandy soil. Traffic, density and confluence.

The square is made up of conflicts. It's paralysed in a state of permanent transformation that is always about to begin but never actually starts. The '93 proposal willing to erase all existing buildings hovers above everything like a giant sword of Damokles. A godlike providence of ten highrisers agog.

The well-intentioned attempt to always solve the square on a large scale created a space that is made up of fragments and errors. Instead of waiting for the « f i n a l  s o l u t i o n » the quality should be seen in the inverse. The substance of the square is the « u n s o l v a b i l i t y » of its conflicts. One could think of its concrete desert makes it the most democratic space. Its artefacts are traces previous failures and leftovers of social negotiations. They shouldn't be erased but used, made visible and be celebrated since they are built expression of the city's vivid history and imprint of oppositional ideas of urban coexistence.

Alexanderplatz should stay the unsolved centre of Berlin. 

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It's about nothing less than « t h e  f u t u r e ».
« B a u v o r l e i s t u n g  A l e x a n d e r p l a t z » is situated under the square branching in all directions. It's an institution whose purpose is the protection of the future. It is not trying to save the world since one agrees on this making everything worse. It conserves not what is but what will come or what could have dawned. All those idealistic visions, rosy futures and fair chances - here they are preserved and enshrined. Of courese in an entirely neutral way.

Alexanderplatz is unstoppably continuing to change. As a metropolitan square it underlies different forces. At the same time the institution is storing the alternative Alaxanderplätze, those that were not built. Collecting its unmade decisions.

Around the square here and there metallic monoliths are standing around. They seem seamless, vaguely mirroring the surrounding buildings and do not attract any attention. One is standing in the weeds of a oversized traffic island. A few metres next to a tram stop are two other monoliths, standing awry in the city. The three of them are footing on the foundation of a different building that didn't make it above the basement. The city it was about to stand in already changed for another one.

In front of the aluminium columns of the teacher's building is a big metal cylinder. A row of silver spikes is standing on the other side of the road and a hexagon sits next to the big hotel building.

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One of the reflecting cubes next to the tram stop is equipped with a roller shutter and a button. A cctv camera oversees the entrance area. After pushing the button and expressing one's concern the shutter opens to a goods elevator that brings the guests to the basement. A receptionist sits patiently behind his perforated window. The guest can arrange an appointment for revision or hand in unrealized ideas. Visitors usually can't enter straight away but everybody gets an appointment once registered. At least as long as you know what you are looking for. 'This is no museum' is what the receptionist likes to emphasize. Across from him is the security checkpoint. It is like in an airport but bigger. Everybody can hand in plans and models. Whether unrealized projects or lost competitions, safety requirements are high. On the one hand it's to avoid the destruction of those rare futures. On the other it is because some visions are so radical that a release is blocked as far as possible.

selection hall
A archivist brings the requested materials from the archive and sets them up. The visitor is let in and led to the selection area where he gets access to the well lit material. The visitor can be alone with his vision as long as he wants to. There are also study rooms nearby where one can intensely work on a selected future for several days. 

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interim storage
A tower whose entrance one will search vainly. Instead one gets in from beneath. The slim tower block is reminiscent of a stair turret and contains the paternoster warehouse. Huge racks rotate at command and give you access to the desired future. Those moving archives are full of boxes and barrels that seem to be very organized and well sorted. From time to time, a hanging fork lifter moves through the subterranean halls, moving some boxes. Inside there are models of futures that didn't make it yet.

final future disposal site
The former underpass goes below the car tunnel and is utterly filled with racks. The racks themselves are filled with white barrels that are full of disassembled models, sealed air tight for eternity.

transparent city model
Under a big junction and an unfinished high rise construction site, yet inside the former air-raid shelter is the city model. It is made of transparent sheets in scale 1:500 that show the city above and below the surface. The sheets can be replaced if a new planning requires updated models. Sheets with alternative content are stored in a storage nearby. The worm model is exemplary for these sheets.

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study rooms
An aluminium rotunda. Twenty cells in a row, arranged around an lowered courtyard. You can go here to intensely work on your very utopia. The cells are equipped with a desk, a daybed and provide access to the inner courtyard.

future reconstruction workshops
Models are repaired, rebuilt or thought further under the metal sheds. From the underground, you can catch a glimpse of the future production.


Far below the surface at the end of a bent tunnel comes a cubic chamber with the edge length of 8x8x8m. It's the tunnelling shield chamber of U10 that was never realized. In the centre you'll find a set of cots, at the ceiling is a flickering projection. It shows the city from above as a aerial stroboscope. In an apparently random order aerial photographs of the concerning part of the city are appearing. Ancient views, never realized plans and futuresque visions. An example is shown at the right end of this site.

nisi decisions room 
To get to the space, one has to walk all the way down the former rainwater emergency chanel that lies under the square as a giant S. It is the biggest of its kind, cars could drive through easily. At the very end, one enters a big circular space. A pleasent water sound is to be heard. From the high ceiling hangs a giant round table with a whole in the middle.

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 Lots of chairs queue alongside the hanging desk disc. The light that comes in through the skylights and the thin beams is sparkling softly. Above the hall is the so-called fountain of friendship between nations. Leftovers are floating above the skylights and sometimes childrens' feet are casting long shadows on those that sit downstairs around the circle, deep in conversation. The committee is made up of politicians, investors and those that were involved in early plannings. They talk about which models to keep and which to buy and whether or not to present the city a vision.

smoke alarm
Every few weeks or months, smoke is coming out of a thin hexagonal chimney at the very edge of Alexanderplatz. Projects are burnt as soon as they got realized. The archivist usually does it on sunday evenings. He puts all plans and models in the small oven and lights them on fire. Sometimes he watches the paper and wood starting to burn. He then uses to close the hatch and go up to the square where he likes to sit down and light himself a cigarette. He looks over to the chimney that also smokes. Big metal cubes in the background are mirroring the lights of the city. If he didn't know better, he would say that they multiplied again.

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« B e r l i n ,  A l e x a n d e r p l a t z »

It could be 1928, 1953, 1969, 2012, today, the day after tomorrow, time does not count. The big clock in the middle of the square stands still, everything else is turning around. Shacks, carousels and way to many people are spinning around. A chaotic ado.

A flying sausage-dealer just collided with a businessman. Half-baked and slipped away goods are marking the crash scene whose circumstances are the matter of a brawl. The suit pushes the sausage-dealer backwards to to a shiny hexagonal column that stands in the crowds of people as a rock in the torrent.

The squabblers release each other as the big cylinder shudders and intensely begins smoking. The white smoke comes somewhere out of the ground. If this future-saving institution really exists, the sausage dealer thinks as he watches the fume, it got one vision less. In his mind's eye he envisions the subterranean hollows, wide spread and filled with barrels full of critical potential.

The other guy wipes away the ketchup from his tie. He begins talking in english. He indtroduces himself as a renowned real estate developer that just invited architects for a competition. A luxurious residential tower, top quality location, directly at the square. Those architects and planners should not be worried by the plot he sais and points to the ground. The soils is like a swiss cheese, perforated by underpasses, undergrounds, a three storey bunker and of course the infinished highrise from 1928. They, he sais and laughs, should just think the soil is propper Berlin sand.

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Indeed, the diggers would strike sand in one edge of the plot. All the rest is almost built up as high as everywhere else in Berlin, around 20m just not into the air but into the ground.

The sausage-dealer lets out a guffaw. What a foolish story his opponent is telling him. Another unbuildable highrise that would stand on the foundations of an unfinished one?

The businessman does not laugh. Instead he looks up in the sky.
It starts all of a sudden. A thunder shakes the strangely muggy december day. Finaly an ear-splitting bang, dust everywhere. Nobody will be able to tell later how it came about but when the dust settles, there is a gap in the sky. As people start to see what happened, a whole cascade of thunderbolts follows. This time, the mist stays in the city for a long time.

As the dustclouds of the attack disappear, another city is casting off the white light. Mirroring towers are splintering the horizon.

People don't recognize their city as the images appear in television and on the newspaper frontpages in the following days. Ten giant towers rocketed in the middle of the devastated city centre.


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Without the enormous help of numerous friends this work would not have been possible.

Thank you so much:

Markus Bühler

Martin Behrens
Jakob Cevc
Masen Khattab
Sebastian Löffler
Axel Mauruszat
Dörte Meyer Nardi

Sebastian Milank
Nadja Müller
Sebastian Nicolle

Julian Pommer
Dominik Poncé
Alexandra Ranner
Nikolas von Schwabe

Jan Thoelen
Johannes Waltermann
Lucie Waschke

Many thanks especially to the supervisors of my project:

Prof. Alfred Grazioli
Prof. Alexandra Ranner und
Roland Meyer

I would also like to say thank you to:
Jan Hoffmann from Senatsverwaltung für Stadtentwicklung
Horst Lucht from Bezirksamt Mitte
Gunnar Nath from Landesdenkmalamt
Beate Blau from WBM
Christian Berkes from ProQM
Lucas Bahle from KH Weissensee
Jule Brink from Industriedesign der UdK
as well as Großuhrmacher Michael Salchow!

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  installation view at University of the Arts  

 Link: BDA-SARP-AWARD 2014 (Association of German Architects)

          excavation and foundation of the third (uncompleted) building by Peter Behrens at Alexanderplatz in 1928, construction sites in 1968 and 2009   (roll over for more information)
  Block, loop 0:55 min, model: concrete, 740x760x173mm    Link: Photographic Inventory of the Underground  

 Roentgenmodell (X-Ray-Model) 1:500, steel, bitumen, acrylic glass, 2200 x 1300 mm

   (roll over for more information)
               Wurmmodell (Worm Model) 1:100 wood, concrete, aluminium, steel, 5500 x 2000 mm     (roll over for more information)
  excerpt: reception, selection area on top of Behrens' foundation block
   excerpt: memory-tower, strobothek, study rooms
   excerpt: smoke alarm
  excerpt: future reconstrucion workshops with windows to the tube
                     Schachtknoten 1:33, wood, concrete, aluminium, filling paste
   excerpt: reception (old  pedestrian pathway)
   excerpt: Zukunftsendlager (final future disposal site)      excerpt: selection area               site plan 1:500 (click to enlarge)
   section 1:200 (click to enlarge)   aerial stroboscope, aerial views drom 1928, 1928*, 1928*, 1945, 1953, 1985, 2012 and 2021* with *non realized buildings by Kollhoff, Mies Van der Rohe and the Luckhardt brothers
  view of Bauvorleistung Alexanderplatz from TV tower