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Open letter against the disfigurement of the former GSW Headquarters highrise

Open letter to Sienna Real Estate Property Management Germany GmbH against the disfigurement of the former GSW Headquarters highrise

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the owners of the building ensemble that was originally constructed as the GSW headquarters in Rudi Dutschke Strasse, Berlin Kreuzberg, you are planning to replace the sun protection system on the west side of the tower.  You have announced that you will change this convection façade in both its materiality and its function, as well as in its characteristic colour scheme. You intend to remove the existing solar protection system comprising pivoting and sliding floor-to-ceiling height panels made of perforated aluminum panels that are coated in 9 specific colours. Instead you intend to install colour blinds that are fixed in place and can only be rolled up and down vertically. These fabric hangings are to be dyed in colours -selected from a supplier’s extremely limited colour chart- that are completely different from the existing colour scheme of the façade. Thus, the building, referred to (by yourselves) as "Rocket Tower," with Rocket Internet and Amazon as key tenants, will have a "fresh face," according to your argumentation.

Such a dramatic change to the façade, however, represents a gross disfigurement of the building and its neighbourhood. We therefore urge you to abandon these plans and to repair the facade instead, so that the existing colour scheme can be preserved and renewed through a simple recoating of the current panels.

To replace the existing solar shading system which was specifically designed for the building with a banal universal product brutally disfigures the building. It denigrates the logic of an architecture designed entirely in response to the climate (wind, convection, cross-ventilation, solar radiation), which achieves high environmental comfort in the workplace and highly flexible control of light and view without wasting energy. The specific appearance of the building stems from its response to the natural environment, and has therefore become the iconic pioneer of sustainable construction that still enjoys worldwide attention today. In addition to the high costs that would be associated with replacing this system, such a measure would also result in comparatively high CO2-emissions, thus contributing to climate change. Instead, we ask you to respect the architectural and cultural heritage and to send a contemporary signal of waste avoidance and resource conservation by repairing the facade in the spirit of sustainability.

The former GSW Headquarters was the winner of the Berlin Architecture Prize in 2000 and has received numerous other awards, including the 2003 Building Physics Prize and the 2003 Benedictus Award. Further, it was nominated for the Mies van der Rohe Award and the Stirling Prize. A sizeable model of the building has, for some years already, been part of the prestigious Architecture Collection at MoMA, New York.

Recognised for decades as a benchmark, the former GSW Headquarters has long been held in high esteem nationally and internationally as both an icon and as a pioneer of climate-conscious construction. At the same time, with its highly idiosyncratic colour scheme, the building’s external presence defines Berlin's urban space - publicly accessible to all - and contributes significantly to the identity of the place and its people. We urge you to refrain from the unnecessary disfigurement of this structure by the ill-reflected replacement of the solar shading system so central to the identity of the building and its neighbourhood.

Matthias Sauerbruch, Louisa Hutton and Juan Lucas Young  

We are happy to have won a number of prominent initial signers. Among them are:
Prof., Dipl. Ing. Thomas Auer, Chair of Building Technology and Climate Responsive Design, TU Munich; Partner TRANSSOLAR, Klimaengineering, Stuttgart, München, New York
Prof., Dr. (mult) Barry Bergdoll, Meyer Schapiro Professor of Art History, Columbia University, New York City, U.S.A.
Prof. Aaron Betsky, School of Architecture and Design at Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, USA
Prof. em Kees Christiaanse, ETH Zürich, Founding director KCAP Architects and Planners Rotterdam, Zürich, Shanghai
Prof. Jean Louis Cohen, Sheldon H. Solow Professor in the History of Architecture at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, New York City, U.S.A.
Hans-Jürgen Commerell, Director Aedes Architekturforums and Aedes Network Campus Berlin
Prof. Olafur Eliasson, Artist
Prof., Dr. hc, FRIBA hons Kristin Feireiss, Founding director Aedes Architekturforum and Aedes Network Campus Berlin
Prof. (EoE TUM), Dipl.-Des., Fritz Frenkler, Director AdK, Berlin. In the name of the Architecture Section, Academy of Arts, Berlin
Dipl. Arch. ETH/SIA/BSA Patrick Gmür, Former Director Urban Planning and Architecture, City of Zürich, Founding partner of Steib Gmür Geschwentner Kyburz Partner AG, Zürich
Prof Katharina Grosse, Artist, Academy of Fine Arts, Düsseldorf, Chairwoman Kunstwerke e.V., Berlin
Prof. Daniel Libeskind, Architect
Prof. Dipl. Arch. ETH/BDA Regula Lüscher, University of the Arts,  Former Chief City Architect/State Secretary Berlin
Prof. Volkwin Marg, Founding Partner Architekten von Gerkan, Marg und Partner
Prof. Dr.-Ing. h.c HG Merz, Second Direktor . In the name of the Architecture Section, Academy of Arts, Berlin Founding Partner mm+ | merz merz gmbh & co. kg
Prof. Mohsen Mostafavi, Alexander and Victoria Wiley Professor and former Dean of the Graduate School of Design, Harvard University, Cambridge MA. USA
Dipl. Ing. Anh-Linh Ngo, Editor-in-Chief and Co-publisher of ARCH+
Prof. Olaf Nicolai, Academy of Fine Arts, Munich
Prof. Karin Sander, Artist, ETH Zürich Dept. Architecture and Art
Dr. Barbara Steiner, Director and CEO Bauhaus Foundation Dessau
Prof. Christiane Thalgott, Former Chief Deputy for Building, Munich
Prof. Dipl. Ing. Jörn Walter, Former Chief Building Director of the City of Hamburg

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