Getting to Know Jan Kleihues (Part II)
A few weeks ago I began telling you about my visit to Jan Kleihues, the renowned Berlin architect who designed the Hotel Concorde Berlin both inside and out. Well, it’s time for the second instalment this week – so where was I? Ah yes, Jan Kleihues was telling me about the hotel…
“You see the horizontal bands which wrap around the building?” he asks, pointing them out on the images of the hotel flashing across his laptop screen, “they are to make the structure seem less imposing, to help it fit harmoniously with the surrounding buildings. The gradation is also important for this.” He gestures to a shot of the building from behind, “It is more like a sculpture than a building in the traditional sense. There is no front and back as far as the architecture is concerned.”
He zooms right in on the next image to point out the beautiful swirls and patterns which characterise the stone from which the facade is built. The stone looks grey from afar, but when you take a closer look you realise deep red patterns “grow” on its surface: “We chose this material to contrast with the strict geometry of the design – the stone has a wild, living feel to it.”
Jan Kleihues believes that it is the details and subtle touches which make a building great. According to him, the best details are the ones you don’t see. “Take the windows on the corners of the hotel, for example. If we had used normal panes of glass, you would have noticed straight away because of the reflections. The smooth curves of the building would have been ruined, so we used bent panes, which are very expensive. It’s the kind of detail which would only become obvious if it were absent.”
Some of his ideas and plans were unusual, such as the 3.6-metre-high panes of glass used for the entrances, for which he needed special permission. But Hans Grothe, the Bauherr, or owner who commissioned the building, gave him a lot of freedom. According to Kleihues, a building is only as good as the architect and the Bauherr. Hans Grothe has an eye for beauty – and not just when it comes to architecture. Grothe is also a keen art collector, and most of the artwork on display in the Hotel Concorde Berlin is from his own personal collection.
To be continued…