Cottbusser Tor

“In fact, we can only very roughly estimate what kind of reactions those unconsciously remaining influences of unmanageable, informal accumulations of building have on people who live here, who love here, who are continuing living here and die here.”

Alexander Mitscherlich
„Die Unwirtlichkeit der Städte“


Neues Kreuzberger Zentrum is an emblematic building in the geography of Berlin, a symbol of both renovation and decay. Its unavoidable architecture represents a determination to articulate the new life of Berlin; a utopian view of a city in flux. However, the inevitable effervescence of the city ended up collapsing with the all willingness of possible renovation. What was a reflex of a new epoch, became ruins for a new community.

NZK was an impressive project with more than 350 apartments, and 1.500 m2 of diverse stores and offices. This megalomaniac construction, high and robust, was conceived to renew the old and abandoned Kottbusser Tor. Maintaining the idea of “tor”, it created a bridge over the Adalbertstraße, an entrance to a revamped West Berlin. However, soon after its opening in 1974, the NKZ developed rapidly into a conflict zone, and a hot spot for drug abuse and violence. Its architecture design made it even more unmanageable - intricate and claustrophobic corridors, stairs and hallways inside; blind spots and narrow side-streets in the outside. The utopic Neues Kreuzberger Zentrum came to be one of the most famous examples of Failed Architecture.

Made of concrete, coloured with yellow windows and hundreds of balconies stuffed with antennas; its materiality is inescapable. On its 40th birthday, Claudia Olendrowicz & Bruno Di Lecce look for the traces that represent as well as humanise this monster building. They reflect on its overwhelming presence to reinterpret the construction of the edifice, using very different media to depict the dystopic universe shaped by NKZ.

Claudia Olendrowicz & Bruno Di Lecce form an unconventional collective, developing projects together, but creating separated artworks. With a site-responsive approach, they both reinvent spaces of action, looking for traces in the lived spaces where they work. Those remains of a life fading away are the protagonists of their stories. Stories that talk about the pass of time, formation of identity and the complexity of representing reality. The title carries in itself a declaration of intentions; the artists misspell the name to create a parallel Kottbusser Tor. By decoding the building in its elementary parts, they explore the vestiges that give identity to the square. The artworks uncover the impossibility of a utopian construction, the immanent failure of grandiosity.

The artists focus on the difficulties in the representation of lived-spaces. Claudia explores the construction of identity, and Bruno the comprehension of a place. With a holistic approach, together they create an ensemble that delineates a new fictional Cottbusser Tor.

Claudia’s oeuvre pivots around the usage of materials that are able of tracing identity. She reverts their original function, and by transposing them, their nature becomes self-evident, unveiling effects of an ever-changing society. By contrast, Bruno Di Lecce investigates the representativity of reality. His artworks are conceived as proposals to overcome the impossibility of an objective representation. Hence creating a multiverse of options, imaginary views of a labyrinthian NKZ. His “Wanderung” follows the same idea - floating on a weightless, soundproof white background, a measuring tape hopelessly trying to estimate the dimensions of an impracticable place.

“Wirtlichkeit I” by Claudia Olendrowicz crosses the gallery space dividing, connecting or appraising it. A bridge made of Turkish soap, a ductile and imperfect bond that leads to its correlative: “Wirtlichkeit II”. A set of six tiles paradoxically made of grout. The porosity of the material absorbs all evidence of interaction, turning them into relics of lived-spaces. Like the plaster of “Next”, compelled to be imprint empty pockets of invisible trousers. The passing of time and people is engraved on her artworks, revealing the humanity in those inert materials; and thus portraying a dynamic social environment.

Materiality is at the core of Claudia Olendrowicz’s work, whereas Bruno Di Lecce focuses on the struggle for objectivity. Notwithstanding their approach, they create an intertwine story, a set of proposals that unravel at Vesselroom Project. They complement each other, finding ways of representing both space and society in its essence.