There are three reasons to go to St. Agnes church in Berlin-Kreuzberg this Thursday:
First is the exhibition Public Works. Architecture by Civil Servants. This was OMA’s contribution to last year’s Venice Architecture Biennale, and was one of the most discussed and acclaimed contributions - so we're glad it's traveling. The exhibition presents examples of European buildings and ensembles from the 1960s and 70s that have been designed by public building authorities whose architects are regarded here as “civil servants.” The exhibition collects examples from France, Germany, Italy, the UK, and the Netherlands, stretching from office buildings to housing projects and public works including the Pimlico School in London, the Wibauthuis in Amsterdam, and the St. Agnes church in Berlin.
The exhibition declares the 60s and 70s the “heyday of public architecture” in Europe - or as de Graaf calls it, “a short-lived, fragile period of naïve optimism, before market economy’s brutal command took the lead.” He goes on to describe the period as “a curious paradox, that the welfare state's good-natured ideology chose to be represented by a style that was later on named brutalist architecture.”
The second reason to visit the church is the building itself, which is simultaneously the exhibition space and the subject of the show. Public Works features three famous projects from German architect Werner Düttmann, all located in Berlin and dating from the 60s: the Akademie der Künste (close to the famous Hansaviertel), the Brücke Museum, and St. Agnes. The church and its adjacent community center – featuring raw concrete surfaces and strong cuboid volumes that form a complex spatial system of exterior and interior spaces – is one of the most interesting examples of Brutalism in Berlin. Due to financial reasons the catholic church stopped using it in 2004, and in 2012 Berlin-based gallerist Johan König bought and transformed it into a depot, office, and exhibition space. (Adding the church to the long list of difficult or abandoned Berlin buildings appropriated by the wealthy or the art or club scene). This will be the first public exhibition in the former hall of the church and it will be interesting to see how its special interior spaces are dealt with.
And lastly... your third incentive is of course the highly-anticipated opening party on Thursday, not only celebrating the exhibition but the entire new art event space. It seems like everyone will be there – depending on your preferences regarding the art/architecture crowd, this might also be a reason to exactly not attend the opening. But if you want to make it to the exhibition post-party, hurry up - it's only open for a month.
Public Works. Architecture by Civil Servants
St. Agnes, Alexandrinenstrasse 118-121, 10969 Berlin
Duration: 8 March – 14 April 2013
Opening: 7 March 2013, 5-7 pm.