This year our office trip took us to one of Europe’s most creative capitals, Berlin, for a weekend of study tours, sightseeing, team-building, currywursts and the occasional stein of German beer.
After touching down on Friday – with not a single flight missed this time! – we broke off into small groups to explore our centrally located hotel’s immediate surroundings, including Checkpoint Charlie, the Holocaust Memorial and local cafes with traditional food offerings.
Later in the day we reconvened at a bar in the central district of Kreuzberg, a former West Berlin neighbourhood which drew all kinds of creative people while the city was divided.
Bright and early the next morning, we were split into three guided study groups, led by architectural tour company Ticket B, for the main focus of the trip – to learn from Berlins’ exciting and innovative residential neighbourhoods, and take the knowledge back to our own studio to apply.
Group 1 explored two of Berlin’s six UNESCO World Heritage modernist housing estates, built in the early 20th Century. The estates represent social aspirations of the time, and were influential for urban planning and architecture. At The Horseshoe Estate, by Bruno Taut, over 1,000 flats were standardised using only four floor plans, and simple design elements such as colour, detailing and thoughtful landscaping were used as instruments to create variation and community.
Group 2 went on a tour of housing projects in Kreuzberg, including Dannewitz Gins, a collaborative project between several architects and a developer, comprising 40 apartments and commercial spaces, with a communal urban garden. They also visited Gleisdreieck, a 31.5ha park that revitalises the vacant former railway site it sits on, and a cooperative housing estate that generates sustainable, social and cultural value.
Last but not least, Group 3 explored more contemporary examples of residential architecture in Prenzlauer Berg, starting with the striking 1.4km Berlin Wall Memorial, containing the last piece of the wall with the preserved grounds behind it. They then moved down the former wall strip, stopping at projects located on the confluence of the monumentally significant symbol for the city, focusing on the ways they address this monument while creating their own identities and communities.
We regrouped at the Marheineke Markthalle, a lively historic market hall, for lunch amongst the locals, before dispersing once again into our groups for self-guided afternoon tours, navigating the city streets on foot this time to see the famous Potsdamer Platz, the Daimer Chrysler buildings and several other interesting housing estate projects.
The trip culminated in an evening spent together as a practice, where our Managing Partner Marcus Adams shared his reflections on the past year and excitement for the year ahead, over a delicious dinner and some very entertaining icebreaker table games.
Each group will report back their findings and lessons learned from the study tours on Monday 23 October, at our lunchtime Soundbites sessions.