Crystal Talk
Text: Cordula VielhauerPhotos: Torsten Seidel


Profil hsh

They met in Braunschweig, from where they went to London, Barcelona and L.A., before finally setting up a studio in Berlin: For years all they ever designed was buildings in former East Berlin, but Hoyer Schindele Hirschmüller nevertheless have always had an international thrust.

Ever since the 1990s the in the Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg districts of Berlin, with their old buildings and derelict sites, have represented something of a field of experimentation for young architects. Not the illustrious settings all around Gendarmenmarkt and Friedrichstrasse, but suburbs such as Scheunenviertel and Rosenthaler, quarters around Arkonaplatz, Teutoburgerplatz, Zionskirchplatz, Kollwitzplatz and Helmholtzplatz.

At night on any weekday, to the sound of gentle beats and the taste of Tannenzäpfle beer in a different temporary bar in the factories, cellars and outbuildings here, you had the feeling that you were living in the most exciting place on earth. By day the dilapidated houses were taken possession of. However, as opposed to previous generations, instead of getting bogged down in nerve-wracking discussions with the owners, the buildings were simply bought up. It was irrelevant whether a group of inhabitants clubbed together or got Daddy to pay (“a great investment!” – how true), in next to no time buildings where the owners had done a lot of the refurbishment work themselves began to stand out against their dilapidated surroundings like a symbol of a golden future for real estate, such that even more cautious builders dared to venture into quarters such as these.

In the narrow gaps between buildings, with which no investor had any intention of getting his fingers burnt with, young architectural studios created their first works. In the process they often tried their hand as building and project developers: Deadline with their “slender/bender” in Hessische Strasse, abcarius + burns with their minimalist apartments in Joachimstrasse, zanderroth/nägeli with their “Aquarium” on Helmholtzplatz, and Jörg Ebers and Daniel Buchheit with a “single-family dwelling” in Auguststrasse.

The duo of Florian Hoyer and Harald Schindele has been particularly active – and since 2002 they have worked with Markus Hirschmüller as their partner. Strolling through the districts mentioned previously, several of their projects catch the eye: Residential buildings with patchwork facades made of wood and stucco and, occupying a former gap, a new building that only begins on the second floor and is firmly attached to its neighbor.

Case study houses, roofs and gaps is how they refer to their projects, which, in their innovative power, are certainly based on Californian predecessors, while at the same time reflecting the context of their environment. For some ten years now the trio has been involved almost exclusively with doing up existing buildings. They have developed a few small but elegant residential structures, which, on the outside, respond to the old buildings all around, but on the inside reveal a wealth of spatial surprises. In all cases they emerged through dialog between two parties: the surroundings and the user. So HSH also see themselves as project developers, always on the lookout for building plots, which may well be deemed unsuitable for development, because that is what they are not – but rather, for example, emergency access. Projects they nowadays showcase at the Venice Biennale.

None of the three partners was ever employed in another studio; directly after graduating they founded their own studio in Berlin and did what most graduates only dream of: completing an entire building, from performance phase 1 to 9. There was also a bit of luck involved, because the advance trust came from the immediate family, though they very quickly established their own client base, with which as “building groups” they realized further projects in the east of the city. Nowadays they also design buildings in West Berlin, throughout Germany and even abroad.

And when it came to converting the legendary Berlin techno temple “E-Werk”, a block power station redesigned in the 1920s by the Bewag public utility’s architect Hans Heinrich Müller, into a functional office building, on the back of their organic innovations HSH ultimately won the day over “the one and only Müller connoisseur” Paul Kahlfeld. And imagine their surprise when the famous Berlin Chamber of Architects, which is not exactly renowned for its promotion of the up-and-coming generation, chose the E-Werk as the venue for its jubilee celebration. But perhaps they have something to catch up with what the DJ Sven Fäth calls “Feierei”, getting down and having a good time.

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