henselmann
Henselmann, Stalinallee, East Berlin

The following are two translations, one of comments by Aymonino about a trip to East Berlin he undertook with Aldo Rossi, and the second a translation of what Aldo Rossi wrote about the Stalinallee.

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Frankfurter Tor, Stalinallee, East Berlin

Below is my translation of an extract from an interview of Carlo Aymonino by Ivano La Montagna, from the book Architettura razionale 1973-2008. In the interview, Aymonino recalls a visit to East Berlin that he undertook with Aldo Rossi in 1961.

(Laughing) What a thing it was, when, together as guests, Aldo and I, went to East Berlin.. We were guests because we had made a pact with the Weimar School of Architecture to allow the professors entry into Italy, because from there, not because of our fault, you could not get in.

But when in East Berlin we saw the Stalinallee…resounding applauses between Aldo and I…resounding!

Why? Because there is our architecture, in its total difference, which was that of understanding that it was not style that determined consensus, it was also a way to intervene in the city! The relation between architecture and the city was fundamental in the IUAV [Institute of Architecture of Venice University] and we were formed precisely by this: in wanting to and having to understand this relation between architecture and the city.

Then, even there, Aldo could have been a bit more predisposed than me towards the architecture of the Stalinallee, but in the end even he had nothing to do with that architecture.

What we understood is that we were dealing with an incredible piece of city and in fact it has remained so!

Especially with regards to the west which was, let’s say, it was all.. There was a huge difference!

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Postcard of Stalinallee, East Berlin, 1959

Below is my translation of what Aldo Rossi wrote about the Stalinallee in an article called Aspetti della Tipologia Residenziale a Berlino written for Casabella in 1964 that can be found in an extended version in its original Italian in Scritti scelti sull’architettura e la città 1956-1972:

The most well known episode of the reconstruction of East Berlin, even this one charged and deformed by political propaganda, is constituted by the Stalinallee (today Karl Marxallee) built on the track of the Frankfurterallee.

The Stalinallee detaches itself from Mitte at the height of the Alexanderplatz and it extends in a more or less straight way in the first segment along the Friedrichshain and Lichtenberg to the entend with slight deviations to Mahlsdorf.

It constitutes the transverse-axis of the city and the continuation of the Unter den Linden. 

It is the first large intervention in the reconstruction of East Berlin and its construction precedes the decisions on reconstruction of the Stadtzentrum; note that this chronological order of reconstruction is quite significant beyond the political aspect but also from the urban point of view.

The street is surrounded by multi-storey buildings which constitute a continuous curtain on the left and the right; it is civil habitation with shops on the ground floor.  At regular intervals the road opens in vast axial widenings, surrounded by tower-like buildings. The urban image of this enormous complex is directly influenced by Soviet examples; Soviet is the prefabricated concrete construction system faced with white ceramic.

But with all its evident cultural limits the Stalinallee represents a great urban intervention and it would be good to judge it from this point of view; with the construction of this axis it was intended to construct a part of a city in its totality, it denied, even if polemically and without an accurate study of what could have been a general growth of the city, the older concept of zoning; the dynamic of the street is in itself a continuous centre, the mixing of the functions throughout the entire territory is affirmed by the construction of a unique structure that does not recognize the validity of the formation of districts of preeminent specialization.

To be clear, this formulation corresponds to the most modern tendencies [tendenze] in the field of urbanism  and it’s regrettable that once again positive examples are unrecognised due to considerations that reveal the conformism and the fundamental propensity to taste with which urban problems are addressed.

The Stalinallee (and it is regrettable that today the architects of East Berlin do not defend their work due to cultural conformism, the same conformism with which it was received in the West) was therefore a notable experiment.

In it concretely lives a new dimension and also a real proposal for a different life in the city, different from the bourgeois or opus-driven one of the utopianists; the city is offered in its fundamental facts and the residence incorporated in an urban structure that precisely due to its forming itself as such, frees the various possibilities of organization within itself. To affirm then that a solution of this type dates to the eighteenth century means little or nothing; I would instead say that it is not an eighteenth century solution precisely due to the way it presents itself as a defined piece of city without wanting to preclude, in name of an abstract planning of the city development, the possibility of totally different experiences.

More or less consciously, the Stalinallee presents itself as a piece of Berlin and it presents itself only as this piece of Berlin admitting that the city is constituted by many facts that emerge in different ways; and that only these precise facts are the elements that can be positively controlled.

Rossi concludes his reflections on the Stalinallee in this way:

Conformism has prevailed rather quickly also in the development of East Berlin where the more recent examples taken from the most antiquated Western models leave us quite perplexed; and here is the real critique that can be made to the Stalinallee which did not arise due to a precise awareness of these problems but due to a political suggestion as the last contorted changes of direction demonstrate.

Read more: Scritti scelti sull’architettura e la città 1956-1972:

 

 

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