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Residential Complex “bercahaus”

The expressive aura of a fragment of Berlin

conrad-bercah

Like many comparable ancient Greek words that sum up a state of mind or sentiment, the German term Stimmung is difficult to translate, needing a paraphrase to really get across the meaning. Stimmung indicates that particular mood, emotional state or openness to situations that require sensitivity, tact and circumspection.

The small building designed by conrad-bercah in Berlin exhibits a special sort of Stimmung worth describing. Let us start with the city where it was built, Berlin. Here, history and the destruction of that history has given us an urban landscape where, despite the urgent reconstruction, you still feel strains of the former city of the Romantics, which, like London, grew up out of many different small towns, becoming a single city only later on. Still today when in Berlin, you feel, as if by magic, the presence of what once was a city of stone, bricks, clinker and glass, uniquely modern for its time, monumental yet at the same time fragmentary. Indeed, considered in this setting, the brilliance of an architect like Karl Friedrich Schinkel stands out for his - perhaps unique - ability to balance assertive classicism and narrative romanticism, clarity of form and fragmentary interventions. Indeed, it was Schinkel and his fellow Berliner, Hans Sharoun, who gave expression to the city’s intimate formal Stimmung.

Conrad-bercah moved to Berlin years ago. He made a study of the city, even writing a book, which - unsurprisingly - comprises a series of juxtaposed fragments in a comparison of three cities: Turin where he trained, Milan, where he worked for many years, and finally Berlin, which appears to contain the first two. The book’s title is also emblematic: Berlin Fragments. Similarly, the clear yet variegated form of his latest building reflects the lesson the architect-author has learned from his adoptive city. For conrad-bercah has succeeded in recovering the gentle...

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