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“Built for eternity” – every building, at least in Europe, shoulders the burden of this weighty claim, not just palaces and churches, but also post offices, swimming pools, museums, theaters and residential homes.

“Architecture is a dangerous mix of both power and powerlessness,” state Rem Koolhaas and Bruce Mau. This sentence prefaces Belgian author Charlotte Van den Broeck’s book Wagnisse, in which she highlights thirteen architects of failed structures. What standards do works of architecture have to meet? Who determines these standards? In what ways can architects fail? How come some buildings derided by contemporary critics are then eventually appreciated and cherished by posterity? Could buildings, as Heiner Müller would have wondered, wait for their users?

Charlotte van den Broeck’s interlocutor is the Berlin architect Hilde Léon, whose architectural firm léonwohlhage designed, among others, the Indian Embassy and the Bremen State Representation in Berlin, as well as currently the office and commercial building TRION on Leipziger Platz, which completes the historic city figure of the octagon on Leipziger Platz again after more than 75 years.

In an interview, she emphasised that a convincing architectural design has its own expression: “Even if tastes are completely different. You don’t really get anywhere with the criteria of beautiful and ugly. But one thing unites properties that have the potential to survive their time: You can sense that the buildings are based on an idea and that this idea has been followed through.”

Melinda Crane



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