Images of freshly completed buildings, often devoid of inhabitants and traces of use, tend to be the benchmark for good architecture in glossy magazines and architectural history books alike. So it is refreshing to come across a new magazine dedicated to “architecture in use”.
The series, created by Berlin-based architects and professors Sandra Bartoli and Silvan Linden (Büro für Konstruktivismus) offers an alternative approach to the contemplation of architecture. In their functionally designed booklets, the authors examine the current value of architectural structures in the form of case studies. By taking into consideration their construction, changes in appearance, application and use, they reveal the cultural significance of built locations beyond their structural substance.
The first four issues in the series, (AG 1-4) portray, respectively: an apartment in Great Arthur House at Golden Lane Estate in London (in English); the creation of a playground in Falkenhorst, a residential complex built on the outskirts of Cologne in the late 1960s (in German); the Mancunian Way, a sort of brutalist motorway running through Manchester (in English); and the Tiergarten park in Berlin (in English). The selection does not address buildings from a purely architectural standpoint, but rather examines locations and their use.
This approach is clearest in the fourth issue (AG4) on the Tiergarten park in Berlin: In 60 “episodes” Sandra Bartoli describes the diverse ways in which the park’s 210 hectares have been used throughout its history, traces of which are still evident today. Backed by careful research performed using a contemporary archaeological approach, each change is described and accompanied by a photograph. These include the story behind the Lenné Triangle, the Berlin Fan Mile or, in Episode 23, the creation of an open-air shower at Löwenbrücke bridge, a popular meeting point for the gay scene. In the eighties a young man donated a significant amount to the Tiergarten park, on one condition: that a shower be installed at Berlin’s last remaining suspended bridge, constructed in 1838. The bridge has been closed for renovation for years, but the shower remains functional.
In contrast to the Tiergarten issue, the first issue in the series (AG1) is a photographic documentation of an apartment in London in its current state, compared with a magazine review of the same building written while it was being built. Meanwhile, an interview with a resident expert on post-war architecture in AG 3 offers yet another form of confrontation with a built structure – the Mancunian Way – and the history of its use. “Every issue is an instrument of legibility for the documented built structures, with axonometric drawings, photographs documenting the current conditions, interviews and select historical sources, which sharpen the history,” explain the authors.
They also note that they have an entire archive of “architecture in use” that is waiting to be published. The existing issues AG 1-4 offer a taste of what will hopefully be a swiftly growing collection that makes a situationally oriented contribution to the discourse surrounding practical value and production conditions in architecture.
– Luise Rellensmann is an editor at Baunetz
Sandra Bartoli, Silvan Linden
AG1 – Golden Lane
AG2 – Falkenhorst
AG3 – Mancunian Way
AG4 – Tiergarten
10 euros per issue, 25 euros for all four