Defacing Hejduk

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Hejduk's Kreuzberg complex in happier days. (Courtesy architectureinberlin)

The late John Hejduk, dean of Cooper Union, a member of the Texas Rangers, and an influential member of the New York Five, built very few buildings, preferring to leave architectural ideas on paper. But he did build several housing projects in Berlin as part of the influential IBA program, and now one of his finest projects, the Kreuzberg Tower from 1988, is being defaced by its new owners in the name of “improvement.” Kazys Varnelis sends word that a petition is being created to protest this destruction. The effort is being led in part by Hejduk’s daughter Renata, an architectural historian who urged the new owners to halt the work, but apparently received a rude response. According to architectureinberlin, Renata explained: “I tried everything I could to get them to stop and at least consult with the Estate and other architects who were interested in helping to preserve them. They were completely uninterested and felt their facade changes would be much better than the original.”  Help save the tower by spreading the word, signing the petition, and putting pressure on the new owners to reconsider their actions. You can see the terrible plans after the jump.

Despicable. (Courtesy Slab Mag)

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65 Responses to “Defacing Hejduk”

  1. […] Also some more blog coverage at The Architect’s Newspaper Blog. […]

  2. Marc says:

    Renata’s motives are selfish rather than architectural. As the photos and drawings show, this was not a very sophisticated design to begin with. In my opinion, it is not a candidate for preservation.

  3. Stanley Tigerman says:

    My motives are not selfish and Renata’s comments are right on target. The Kreuzberg complex as designed by John Hejduk should be retained as originally designed. Having done one of the villas in the Tegel basin along with John, the remodeling on Kreuzberg is proposterous. The original should be retained at all costs.

  4. Travis Lorne says:

    It’s minimally less cold, drab and lifeless than most Eastern European slum tower projects. Beyond that I am at loss to find anything more charitable to say about this. – Sorry to be blunt, but when you compare this drab effort with, say Place des Vosges, or even any non-name-brand Victorian worker’s housing project in London, you do have to ask what’s all the contrived fuss about here.

  5. Tamas says:

    Hedjuk (and Eisenmam, Libeskind, et al), represented the highly visible but utterly pretentious end of a quasi-intellectual derriere garde that infiltrated and debased serious architectural education with nonsensical posturing wrapped up in obscurantist prose. Their joyless architecture (of which this is a particularly uninspiring example), is a memory I want to forget. I say knock it down. The sooner the better.

  6. Bill says:

    It’s such a sweet sensitive personal building I can’t believe some people
    find it cold, drab and utterly pretentious. I would love to walk down the street
    and be confronted by this face and beautifully scaled tower.

  7. Garreth says:

    Let’s stop kidding around and acting like this is serious architecture. While it’s hardly offensive, it’s not exactly inspiring either. At best, it’s a humorous diagram clothed in cheap stucco. Take away Hejduk’s name and I’d bet that nearly everyone – architecture students included – would walk right by it without a second glance.

    If we start wasting energy on this, next thing you know, people will be campaigning to save work from that embarassing period known as Postmodernism.

  8. Eytan Fichman says:

    A beautiful and rare example of Hejduk’s work that should be preserved, appreciated and studied.

  9. Brian C. says:

    It’s indicative of how bad most modern and contemporary architecture really is, that some people feel this mediocre building is worth saving.

    Personally I’d lay down in front of any bulldozer threatening a work by, say, Cass Gilbert or McKim Mead & White. But if I was to see a bulldozer heading for this, I’d wish the driver God Speed and encourage him to take a few more adjacent buildings dowm with it.

  10. Karl Rinehardt says:

    It’s worth preserving as an example of the relatively low standard that was deemed salvageable from the architectural mess that was the last 75 years of the 20th Century. But let’s not kid ourselves that future generations of camera-toting cultural tourists will be trekking over to the Kreuzberg Tower the way they do today to admire past masterpieces like Borromini’s ‘Quattro Fontane” or Brunelleschi’s Dome. It just doesn’t have that much to offer. Really.

  11. Robert Slinger says:

    I lived in the tower for 8 years. The flats have unique plans and very special qualities.
    The building has been appallingly maintained since its construction, both the buildings and the landscaping, and the complex has really suffered from this
    It is of course an example of the austere aesthetics of Hejduk’s work.
    But anybody who simply dismisses this as low-quality, mediocre or unworthy of attention has either never been, or most certnly, never been inside.

  12. Bill says:


    What are its “special qualities?”

  13. Arthur G says:

    I wonder whether it was “appallingly maintained” (as one writer observed), or just so appallingly detailed that it deteriorated rapidly to the detriment of its appearance.

    It is no secret that academics who have never interned in a professional office have limited construction knowledge as evidenced by a terrible history of construction failures in many of their works. Currently, Daniel Libeskind (an ego-tripping clown who bragged about his refusal to intern for any other architect as a young graduate), has given us such gems as the Denver Museum which leaked for three years, and Toronto’s ROM which has been labeled “The Worst Building of the Decade”.

    I for one, refuse to support a history of bad architecture by unproven academics who are responsible for “educating” many of the incompetents in the workforce today. Let’s get rid of this and move on creating to some real architecture we can be proud of.

  14. Austin says:

    the anti-intellectual strains in some of these comments are as repugnant as they are shallow.

  15. Shari says:

    The mindless, uncritical hero worship by lightweight quasi-intellectuals is as alarming as it is embarrassing and pathetic.

  16. Jonathan says:

    Between all the blogs and campaigning it is surprising (or maybe not so ….), that no one has been able to come up with a decent photo of the project illustrating the former glory that is intended to be preserved. If I was a preservation organization unfamiliar with the supposed merits of this building, right now I’d be wondering what all the fuss was about.

  17. Jean says:

    Maybe commenter Austin would like to sponsor a petition to restore the Nunotani Building, the intellectual masterwork of the great academic, Peter Eisenman. That might be something worthwhile he could do. It was so sad to see this work of genius so underappreciated in architectural discourse.

  18. Jason Frye says:

    Traditional architectural models, evolved over centuries, always developed and used forms, decorative treatments and details that acknowledged and accommodated the inevitable wear that comes with age, use, weathering and a host of similar scourges. Indeed this responsive approach to design usually resulted in a patina which enhanced rather than diminished the architecture.

    Barely two decades old, this featureless abstraction of a building already looks battered and miserable, a fact that cannot entirely be blamed on poor maintenance. To a large degree it is a victim of its own misguided efforts to achieve a long-term minimalist crispness in a world where dirt and abuse should have been expected and catered for by the architect.

    The simple truth (one which blind modernists still refuse to learn from), is that this type of featureless cardboard architecture does not ,and will not age well. It dis-improves with age. The best service one could do to Hejduk’s reputation would be to demolish it now before it manages to look even worse than it does today. As the building continues to deteriorate, so too does the reputation of its creator. And speaking for myself, I won’t miss it anyway.

  19. […] The Architect’s Newspaper […]

  20. JK says:

    Hard to believe an architect was involved in this. Looks like the work of a speculative developer with a sense of humor.

  21. Gert says:

    I do believe that the current owners proposed changes are an improvement. Some colorful striped awnings over the balconies would be a nice touch, and would add some dignity to this otherwise drab pile.

  22. Russell Burns says:

    The Kreuzberg Tower is not exactly vulgar, but it is hardly distinguished either. Unless diagrammatic and simplistic buildings are to be a new paradigm for the design professional, there’s nothing worth saving here. The building lacks the both the insight and the craftsmanship that comes with the mature development of the practicing professional. Rather oddly, it manages to be both witless and cartoonish at the same time. The only thing more amusing is the rather desperate attempt to pretend it is something more than it really is.

  23. J D Mason says:

    Yes. A masterwork of architectural mediocrity. Let’s preserve a few Burger Kings while we’re at it.

  24. Bill says:

    The detailing and scale (the tower) of the building are admirable and worth preserving…it is not “architecture by unproven academics who are responsible for “educating” many of the incompetents in the workforce today.” Its hard to fathom the vituperative nature of many of the comments here when the world is full of aggressively awful commercial buildings that surround it…

    Let’s get rid of this and move on creating to some real architecture we can be proud of.

  25. scooter says:

    This building is grotesque as are the ideas of these uncivilized charlatans such as Hejduk who pose as legitimate Architects.

    Renata is selfish to the core. If she weren’t she’d have mercy on the rest of humanity and help with the demolition post haste.

  26. Proletariat Man says:

    Hey, It should be preserved and the units rented to architecture students who read books only. We can’t have low-class, blue-collar, TV-watching people cluttering up this building with their satellite dishes and overalls drying on the balconies. Better yet, kick everyone out so it can be preserved in its purest form so students can see the full thrust of Hejduk’s vision. And we’d be striking a blow against capitalist developer owner scum as well!

  27. Michael says:

    I wouldn’t preserve the paper it was drawn on.

  28. Van says:

    Can we see what is being put up first … before you tear down something.

  29. Sexo says:

    Save the Tower, save the Poet…

  30. […] home.) One of the only buildings New York Five member and influential Cooper Union Dean John Hejduk ever built is under fire by “improvement”-minded owners in Berlin. On a macro scale, funding for […]

  31. Thomas R. Aidala FAIA C.U. Arch 55 says:

    Was it art is long life is short or was it, as Corbu was reported to have said “art is wrong, life is right”? Or something like that.

  32. KL says:

    Attack what is filled with life, spirit and poetry because it reminds you that you have none.

  33. DL says:

    1. I amazed at the crassness of the comments.

    2. Quite a few people thought the old Penn Station (in NYC) was ugly, too. Now it’s gone.

    3. Still amazed at the comments…is unite d’habitation next? I’m sure quite a few people find that ugly as well…maybe we should destroy guernica, it’s pretty drab — and so depressing, too!

  34. Jiri Boudnik says:

    I am shocked at the venom in some of the posts. Are these some disgruntled former students of John Hejduk, who are now “getting back” at John, or are they some dispirited architects, who aren’t able to get any of their designs built. By the rashness and severity of their judgments I am even more convinced that the buildings should remain. It pleases me that John can, even after his death, whip up so much passion and hopefully these “nihilists” will be able to create something out of this passion. I say: Cheers to John Hejduk!

  35. KL says:

    Jiri Boudnik,
    If you knew The Cooper Union, I don’t think that you would suggest that “the crass comments are coming from former students of Hejduk.” Hejduk inspired generations of students who feel compelled to pass on the gift
    These comments are coming from people who never felt anything and are angry because of it.

  36. Bill says:

    Not sure why some bloggers feel Renata Hejduk is “selfish to the core” as
    if its all that hard to understand why a daughter wants to preserve her father’s legacy. In this case the legacy is definitely worth preserving if only because her
    father was one of the most important educators and deep thinkers about the value
    of architectural culture. It is one of the few buildings that work out the meaning of his influential drawings in an urban context. I second the “Cheers” to John Hejduk.

  37. nina says:

    who are these people?
    who has time to write these terrible things?
    if you have a building you love which is in peril, please turn your energy towards saving that! There is certainly room for a wide variety of lovingly conceived buildings to be brought to our attention and maintenance.
    I am very glad of this campaign, and hope that it has a good outcome.

  38. BT says:

    With a triangle and a square, Hejduk can reach down into the soul.

    Is it so hard to see that this is a unique work of architecture, a unique place for the human body to dwell?

    I think that the Kreuzberg Tower is undoubtedly hostile to certain ways of living and thinking. Maybe public housing isn’t the right program for this building. Some things need to be sought out to be appreciated. Some things, you need to be ready for.

  39. Thomas Kroinne says:

    Wow! All those positive comments coming in a few minutes apart! Someone’s been busy shilling for this project this afternoon!

    To DL (your real initials?) …… The comparison between potential loss of this pedestrian building, and the actual loss of the truly great Penn Station stretches the bounds of credibility.

    To BT (your real initials?) …… Did you really say “Maybe public housing isn’t the right program for this building.”? – What? I’m dumbfounded! Do you really think the architect’s role is to come up with a building form and then allow the owner test it out with a few different programs until something seems to work? – You my friend need to go back to architecture school and then train in a decent architectural office to see how the responsive role of design really works. Until then, you are just making a fool of yourself.

  40. AC says:

    If the owners want for the building to look different they should build a new one. If they do not have enough money to do so right now, that is what these ( are for. When you contract certain architects to build something, preservation is what you sign up for.

  41. JH says:

    One of the joy of looking at this building is seeing how the residents personalize their space. They add new meanings to Hejduk’s architecture. As we debate the merits and demerits of Hejduk’s work, what do the residents think?

  42. […] home.) One of the only buildings New York Five member and influential Cooper Union Dean John Hejduk ever built is under fire by “improvement”-minded owners in Berlin. On a macro scale, funding for […]

  43. devdutt shastri says:

    i think that we can all agree that the late John Hejduk will be remembered in the annals of architectural history. whether we personally find this work exemplary of Hejduk’s ability to subordinate his unarguably vast creative powers and imagination in the service of a low budget housing programme or find this project abominable, is it right that future architectural historians, students and researchers be denied the opportunity to study these buildings in as close to their original form as is possible just because some people don’t ‘like’ it or its architect? if there were many built works by Hejduk perhaps the issue would be less critical but since there aren’t it seems selfish to deny scholarly opportunities to others who may see more in these apparently simple buildings than some people do today. i have been to these buildings and the surrounding neighbourhood and i felt their presence – their apparent simplicity is deceptive. Does a stonemason in dusty overalls have less integrity than a wall street exec in a crisp italian suit? why should we appoint ourselves judges of its inner worth based on a superficial reading? i’m no intellectual and i don’t think it is the intellect that is needed to sense what is being said by this work. it’s already being cited in scholarly articles – see

  44. elan says:

    Unfortunately, those who release their rage through these posts rarely stick around to read others’ feedback.

    I would simply like to mention that contrary to the trend today – architecture is not known/ valued/ or defined, by its image. For all those who say this building ‘Looks bad’, then pause, find the plan, and read it, in order to understand the life within (and see Robert Slinger comment above about living there), then comment.

    People like to empower themselves by bashing architecture and architects, in the most simplistic, personal and superficial ways possible, because it is an easy target. Like judging a book by its cover. What makes this project exceptional in the context of the communist housing blocks in Europe is that it is resoundingly personified/ personal the FACE on the facade and the balcony ‘features’, (places for the body) make one whole: a mutual individual and collective assemblage.
    This personalization is an important historical act within the context of German GDR. And its resonance with the architectural plan is what makes this building’s Exterior an important work of architecture, because it expresses a Social Vision that is developed in the plan. This facade is more than a cover. It has more depth than that, and should not be judged as such. The facade is an abstraction of the Social Vision made manifest within the architectural plan: Socialism with a Human Face. <–Get it?
    This building's 'special qualities' is that it constructs a bridge between the Regime of the late 20th century, to the hope of a post-regime era. It made (and represents) a human dimension, and a humane historical progression.

    To what extent the developer (in the free market) has its own agenda for Society, we shall see . . . All I can add as a word of hope is that if the text/plan WITHIN the Kreuzberg tower does not change, at least for a few families, the inner spirit and way of life constructed by the visionary architect, will survive the rapid and simplified commercialization of culture in Berlin.

  45. Charles Rice says:

    This issue raises the truly horrific spectre of a future in which some misguided people may want to preserve Daniel Libeskind buildings! … Oh the horror …. the HORROR!

  46. Robert Cowherd says:

    Hejduk reminded us of the essentially humanitarian nature of architecture through his words and his work. He was fond of reminding us that “architecture is the most social of the arts,” But words can never substitute for the work. This is not the first time that planned changes to a building has sparked a heated debate, nor will it be the last. Even after editing out the senseless emotional outbursts, the core question remains: what justifies separating out a building for special treatment? Alois Reigl’s 1903 “The Modern Cult of Monuments” (_Oppositions_ 25, 21-51) offers what remains perhaps the best guide to navigating these issues by identifying the distinct sources of value and meaning in a given work.

    By this test, the Kreuzberg Tower deserves to be maintained and occupied at the highest possible standards. At the time of its construction it challenged the easy dismissal of Hejduk’s work as “mere” poetry or “architecture of the boudoir” (after Tafuri). Significant alteration of the tower risks depriving future generations from the fuller opportunity to understand, experience, and debate the larger meaning of Hejduk’s profound contributions to architecture in the late 20th century.

  47. Brian C. says:

    Thank you to ‘elan’ for that informative post. How foolish of me to judge this building on an experiential basis. Very bourgeois indeed. What was I thinking!

    And how novel of Hejduk to redefine the balcony typology as a “place for the body”! Who would have thought …! Yes of course it is a manifestation of Socialism with Human Face. (Obama, take note!)

    And of course I was absolutely delighted to learn that – for some – the building is not really so bad as it actually looks.

    I’m sure that once the other similarly uneducated residents of the neighborhood are provided with a pamphlet explaining how to read buildings as critical social texts rather than mere physical artifacts of their environment, their lives will be measurably brightened. Bravo!

  48. Austin says:

    but the building looks beautiful. and i am not judging by photographs; i am speaking from having seen it in person and having studied it. why is your subjective opinion more weighty than my subjective opinion? because you’re angrier? and we’ve already heard from commenters who have actually lived there, some who loved the building and some who have not.

    so if we can agree that an architectural discussion based on whether or not a building looks good or bad is at best pedestrian, and at worst indicative of a devolution of discourse, why NOT discuss the building for more than its first impressions? since when did architects, traditionally some of a society’s most public intellectuals, begin to eschew scholarship? since when did we, the builders, become advocates for demolition and defacement?

  49. Ed says:

    I don’t know which is sillier, the building itself or the contrived justification that the building represents “… the face of Socialism”.

    This is the sort of pretentious jargon that so-called theoretical architects engage in as a way to bolster their self image in a world where the profession has become increasingly more marginalized and irrelevant. Rather than engage the non-professional public, architects resort to progressively higher levels on verbal nonsense, which only alienate the public more. It’s a vicious circle, a vortex of pretension whose increasing centrifugal force only results in causing those particular architects to get sucked up their own assholes.

  50. Nadi Ghurjdi says:

    @ Robert Cowherd

    I’m not being facetious here, but what, in your opinion, are “Hejduk’s profound contributions to architecture in the late 20th century.” I’m not personally aware of any extended influence he may have had as a result of his highly personal musings and drawings.

  51. Nadi Ghurjdi says:

    One more thing … can someone post a link to a site that has the wonderful plans several posters spoke so highly of. THX.

  52. DL says:

    John Hejduk’s profound contribution to architecture is that he taught me (and Bob, and many others) to think. Differently.

  53. elan says:

    it is very difficult to engage with stupid, angry people, but i will try to respond to ed. calling architects who think, speculate and pursue theories as ‘so called theoretical architects’ is like calling physicists ‘so called theoretical scientists’.

    some architects (they aren’t fictional, they’re real!) contribute long after their death to what is considered DISCOURSE. now that’s not just you or me yelling through the computer. that’s something more enduring and meaningful. and it just may be what people are referring to as ‘a (profound) human contribution’. don’t kid yourself, who ‘engages the non-professional public’, your brain surgeon, your banker, your developer? do you tell your doctor what’s right?

    the profession of architecture is increasingly marginalized in a narcissistic society, just like discourse in general, and creative, critical and social thinking (what to many is still a discipline) are being replaced by personal opinions.
    The real issue is that the free market has torn down what to many experts (though you may not personally understand why!) represents something noble. A vision of a human face for a divided society: berlin in 1988. That is what my metaphor meant. That noble, public cause is being demolished. This stands for Berlin as a whole, and the Kreuzberg Tower is its most explicit example.

  54. Charles Rice says:

    For Renata, the need to preserve this building may have a lot to do with a daughter’s dutiful need to remember her father. For others, the issue may be colored by pleasant memories of college years under Hejduk’s tutulage.

    Neither is cause for celebrating the building itself. That it is better than other other low-income housing in Berlin is laudable, but it is very faint praise indeed when measured against the yardstick of mediocrity that neighboring low-income projects attained. The bigger question has to do with how well Kreuzberg Tower stacks up against, for example, popular and indisputable architectural masterpieces like Manhattan’s Grand Central Station, or perhaps less well known, (outside architectural circles, at least), but seriously poetic work like Carlo Scarpa’s Cemetry Brion-Vega.

    Personally, I can’t see the Kreuzberg Tower in this company. And while it is not as silly as most Post Modern work (Stanley, are you still with us here?), it doesn’t seem to aspire to much beyond a rather simple and obvious visual pun packaged in an otherwise featureless, Lego-like construction.

    As for the rationalization that the building “constructs a bridge between the Regime of the late 20th century, to the hope of a post-regime era….”, that is little more than a contrived, subjective speculation dressed up in the entirely pretentious language of contemporary architectural discourse. It is always disappointing to see supposedly creative people resorting to such formulaic, unthinking and trite “jargonspeak”. It may intimidate gullible and impressionable young students, but outside of the academy, it is rightly percieved as laughable.

  55. elan says:

    What is missed in this discussion of Kreuzberg tower is that it is symmetrical about the North axis, and both east and west halfs are interchangeable. Each person leaving the building faces South, neutrally, and the tower as an anti-wall is at the center. I’m sorry Mr Rice but it is more complex urbanism than a visual pun, if you can read it. The point is even more subtle when you consider the time and place of this construction, and that is what distinguishes it from a train station for New York City or a Mausoleum park for a wealthy Italian family. It is not a monument, and not as extensive in scope as the cemetery-landscape, (it’s just a house!) but it speaks to individual and collective dwelling in a post-wall Berlin. (do you live in the east wing or the west wing?)
    The Kreuzberg Tower elevated the housing block complex and grounds to some meaning that fuses both early modernism and a less literal social realism, both important periods in Berlin. In the Kreuzberg Tower, upon the background of Hejduk’s other unbuilt work for Berlin, there are ideas of urbanism within the city block and memory within the city. These ideas for constructing public space and dwelling in a new Berlin are just as relevant, if not more, today as they were 20 years ago.

  56. Charles Rice says:

    Aaah … of course! “It speaks to individual and collective dwelling in a post-wall Berlin…” How did I miss that? I’m confident that most people arriving home to Kreuzberg Tower miss that critical symbolism too. So perhaps Hejduk didn’t speak clearly enough. Or perhaps his excutiuon is inarticulate. Or, maybe the post facto rationalization is just a load of bullshit. How about that? Certainly the supposed ‘reading’ is entirely subjective and is entirely extraneous to the building itself. And certainly it is not provable as it is something superimposed on the object rather intrinsic to it.

    But let’s say another pretentious academic (Peter Eisenman, for example), “read” this building as being symbolic of male penile domination (the erect tower) over two submissive females (the fluttering eyelashed faces lying prone on the ground). – Sounds ridiculous right? But perhaps not so much as it first seems. In one of architecture’s most ludicrous “critical texts”, Eisenman made a more or less similar sexual reading for his own Nunotani building, in which he described his deformed building as readings of an erect and floppy penis. – (Google it. You’ll see.) – I agree, it’s very juvenile and even embarrassing. But this is just what ridiculous modern “theorists” do. They can’t help making fools of themselves. And they expend their limited creative energies generating “critical texts” intended to add value to designs that lack any true, inherent architectural merit.

    So, to continue. Is the reading of the building as a symbol of male domination any less plausible that the reading of the building as a symbol of “individual and collective dwelling in a post-wall Berlin”? Of course not. Both are equally foolish assumptions added to the building much like salt is added to three-day-old meat in need of some flavor enhancement.

    But let’s say that the “male domination” reading was more accurate. I’m sure people would be outraged and would want to destroy this abominable sexist symbol and replace it with something more attractive. It’s all in the “reading”.

    But I’m no fan of immature “readings”. I’ve thankfully outgrown the amateur-hour intellectual posturing of the academy in favor of developing mature works of architecture which stand or fall ON THEIR OWN MERITS rather than are judged on the infinitely variable, infinitely pliable, infinitely mutable and spurious readings of people who should know better.

    But if people want to jot down their “readings” of Hejduk’s little building here, and preserve them in a glass vitrine set nicely on the manlepiece, I’m all for that. But I expect a bit more from architecture and urbanism, especially if it is to remain as a legacy of my generation.. And frankly this lame effort just doesn’t cut the proverbial mustard.

  57. D. Osborne Mason says:

    Charles Rice hit the nail on the head. The colleges are full of this sort of half-baked nonsense masquerading as theory. Pretentious sophistry and architecture are two different things. (Does anyone today still take Derrida and Foucault seriously?) And the constant striving to give the appearance of profundity is not a substitute for design.

    Compare, for example the great work of former students trained under the Beaux Arts System* (arguably the high point of architectural training in the US), with the silly crayon-colored doodles and puerile fantasies like ‘House of the Suicide’ that Cooper Union students wasted their formative years on. (* Louis Kahn was perhaps the last of a long line of notable students, that included Charles McKim, John Russell Pope and Cass Gilbert, all of whom who became first rate architects, both classical and modern, under this sophisticated mode of training.)

    The sorry legacy of John Hejduk and his cronies is the deplorably misguided and professionally inept generation of halfwits trained on his watch. Far from creating a generation of architects worthy of the name, Hejduk merely brought potentially promising students down to his own level of intellectual pretension. As the old adage does, “Those who can – do. Those who can’t – teach.”

  58. jimbo says:

    D.Osborne Mason,

    Have you thought about having your psychiatrist increase dose of anti psychotic meds?

    It sounds like school was a bit of a trauma for you…

  59. […] Architects Newspaper, “Defacing Hejduk,” illuminates the impending threat to John Hedjuk’s Friedrichstrasse tower but may defeat […]

  60. elan says:

    Charles Rice, are you suggesting that the wall in Berlin is really only just a little piece of concrete? I mean, that’s all it looks like!! Or does it, hmm have some meaning? Why not build another? After all you very eloquently have proven that meaning is not embedded in form.

  61. Charles Rice says:

    Elan, Elan, Elan,

    No. No. No. What I proved was that meaning was not embedded in your “reading”.

    FYI. The Wall in Berlin no longer exists. You need to refer to it in the past tense (“was really only …”) rather than the present tense (“is really only ….”), … unless of course the time-space continuum no longer has meaning in your world.

    Toodle Pip, or something.


  62. elan says:

    The wall is still present, albeit fragmented. So is the Kreuzberg Tower. Both have been only partially demolished. What is, however, a more decisive demolition taking place in Berlin – and this is the point upon which to focus – is cultural. It is the demolition of a civic program, a social vision, and an ethics of practice which this building of Hejduk’s, among others, represents in the context of its time.
    Without intervening in the discussion with personal aesthetics, John Hejduk’s project currently under discussion and demolition, was one element within a larger project for the city of Berlin. Created and put together at a pivotal and extremely meaningful moment in the city, national and international history. The most reasonable, selfless and humane justification to defend this project, (rather than to attack it superficially or perversely) is to recognize the integrity and uphold the civic value of its originally commissioned construction.
    The intent to provide personalized and affordable housing for workers, artists, and other low-income people was a tenet once treated more honorably than today. The period of the Tower’s construction, among other projects under the IBA (International Bauaustellung), intended to be a social, material and imaginative connection at the critical divide in Berlin’s history: at the threshold of its falling wall, at the location of a failing city quarter. Moreover, the opportunity to provide a civic platform for non-commercialized, architectural innovation, was important, much moreso than today. These were real times.
    The civic project for Kreuzberg, as a whole, intended to provoke and present a more equitable, coherent and unified future for the city and its people, through the collaboration of many independent and innovative architects and thinkers with the civic society, planners and their future users. Now you may say it failed – since its achievements, twenty years later, are being reconstructed to suit a free, market, narrow and selfish private financial agenda. However, advocating destruction (and resentment) of Hejduk’s Tower, is a tacit approval of this greater cultural and historical undermining, and an outright rejection of an historical period and ethos, that was an optimistic, and visionary moment in the history of Berlin, that sought to re-balance social inequities and celebrate artistic imagination. Unfortunately, these values, today, are to many people themselves laughable. Today the economy, and many participants, do not care about either art or justice. And today, under neo-liberal Berlin, it is the architecture of its time which remains a testament to the period. To preserve Hejduk’s Kreuzberg Tower, within the Berlin as we now see it, is not only an issue of aesthetics and interiors. The cultural heritage which is being lost is bound up with social values. The selflessness and civic imagination of planners; the collective and poetic commitments of designers; and the collaboration of the civic body, which were, at that time 20 years ago, so greatly valued, are under threat in the name of indifference and profit.

  63. Alex says:


    Never argue with idiots. First they bring you down to their level, then they beat you with experience. Or, to put it another way: why would you try to seriously argue with someone who thinks the Berlin Wall is just a wall (or, for that matter, signs with ‘yours in Christ’)? While the debate about meaning in architecture isn’t as polarized as a debate on universal health care, any amount of cynicism reduces the argument to a shouting match of ‘for’ or ‘against.’ That’s why talking with people like Mason – with an adage about teaching that you only hear from people who have never taught – or Rice – who knows that the best way to be condescending in writing is to repeat someone’s name three times – is especially disheartening. As Hejduk once said, “They’re all just little businessmen.” Still, despite the tone of their arguments, they did not bring you down to their level. Thank you for your series of well-written and eloquent arguments. They were a pleasure to read.

  64. Matt says:


    Thanks for writing that – I was about to write exactly the same and you saved me the time while restoring some faith in the readers of this blog. If I were Mr Rice, I may congratulate you with a hearty ‘bravo!’ or something equally mundane. Elan, thanks for the insightful reading. The IBA was a fascinating project.

  65. Bill says:

    WE WON!

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