2024 Dulux Study Tour – Day 4, Berlin: A dialogue between old and new

By Jamileh Jahangiri

Day 4, everyone told me it was going fast!

As we embarked on an architectural adventure through Berlin, just the morning after we landed from Tokyo, the stark contrast to the bustling metropolis of Japan’s capital was evident. The surreal juxtaposition of these two cities was striking from the moment we landed.

In contrast with our rainy arrival experience, we were greeted by the warm spring sun and perfect weather, setting the tone for an insightful day today.

Berlin city model. Photo by Jamileh Jahangiri.

After breakfast, we met our tour guide, Richard Ollig, at Alexanderplatz to collect our bicycles. Our first stop was the Berlin City Models exhibition at the Senate Administration for Urban Development, Construction and Housing, where Richard passionately explained the city’s urban development. The discussion inevitably touched upon the Berlin Wall and its lasting impact. This reminded me of the “Unbuilding Walls” exhibit at the German Pavilion at the 2018 Venice Biennale, which delved into architectures of division and inclusion—a poignant parallel to Berlin’s history and its path to reunification. It is a story that, after 35 years, still impacts a city.

Next, we visited St. Agnes, which was a highlight of the day for me. Originally designed by Werner Düttmann, this historically listed plot was meticulously converted by Brandlhuber+ Emde, Burlon, and Riegler Riewe Architekten. Their minimally invasive interventions preserved the building’s historical and architectural significance, a testament to thoughtful conservation.

König Galerie in the former St Agnes church, originally designed by Werner Düttmann in 1967. Gallery redevelopment by Brandlhuber+ Emde, Burlon, and Riegler Riewe Architekten.

The Jewish Museum, designed by Daniel Libeskind, was our following destination. The emotional impact of walking through the “Memory Void” and the installation “Shalekhet” (Fallen Leaves) by Menashe Kadishman was profound. Over 10,000 faces cut from iron plates covered the floor, evoking a profound reflection on humanity and contemporary conflicts happening now around the world.

The Kreuzberg Tower bhy John Hejduk.

With heavy hearts, we continued to John Hejduk’s Kreuzberg Tower project, where we were able to see inside one of the apartments, thanks to Richard’s friends. We also visited the nearby Former Berlin Flower Market (IBeB) by Ifau + Heide & von Beckerath. Each site illustrated Berlin’s innovative approaches to urban development and community building while perfectly sitting next to the historic part of the city. Again, thanks to Richard and his friends, we also accessed the IBeB building and one of the studios showcasing circulation innovation and access to apartment planning, a mixed-use development that fostered a social mix and affordable living—a model for sustainable urban living. The studios and studio apartments include condominiums and cooperative rentals, promoting a social mix in the building. There is also space for a non-profit community organization and three commercial units.

Cycling through Park am Gleisdreieck, designed by Atelier Loidl, was a refreshing experience after a day like today. The park seamlessly blended Berlin’s industrial past with modern recreational spaces, emphasising robust, durable materials and fully retained vegetation. This approach to urban landscaping preserved the area’s history while creating a vibrant community hub. Mike said sometimes it’s best to sit, do nothing, and listen. Atelier Loidl did just that.

Park am Gleisdreieck by Atelier Loidl

Our day concluded with a visit to the Kulturforum New National Gallery, designed by Mies van der Rohe. The sleek, modern elements complemented the historic structures, embodying a respectful dialogue between old and new architecture.

Sitting down tonight, reflecting on the day just passed, I see that the architectural interventions happening around Berlin propose a dialogue between old and new, showing architecture’s responsibility to history. We in this profession have a responsibility to the existing, whether an existing building like St. Agnes, an existing landscape like Park am Gleisdreieck, or the landscape we all work in Australia.

– Jamileh Jahangiri is founder of Studio Orsi.

This form is now closed.