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GVCA explores architecture old and new in Berlin

Patricia Williams
GVCA explores architecture old and new in Berlin
Construction is well under way on the estimated $36 million LeMarchant Street mixeduse building at the Studley campus of Dalhousie University in Halifax. Scheduled to open in 2014, the seven-storey facility will house a mix of residence rooms as well as student services. LEED Gold is being targeted. -

For Grand Valley Construction Association (GVCA) President Martha George, viewing the historic Brandenburg Gate ranked one of the highlights of a recent association-sponsored trip to the city of Berlin.

The former city gate, rebuilt in the late 18th century as a neoclassical triumphal arch, is one of the best-known landmarks in Germany. It was restored by a local conservation foundation after being damaged in the Second World War.

When it came to more modern structures, George was particularly impressed with the Frank Gehry-designed DZ Bank building, which faces the gate.

“Nothing in the vicinity is allowed to be more elaborate (on the exterior) than the gate,” she said. “So the façade of the bank building is very nondescript. But the interior is unbelievably magnificent.”

Construction was completed in 2000 on the mixed-use building, which houses offices as well as residential units. A large atrium has been designed as a conference or performance space. Some 24 participants took part in the trip, held Oct. 14 to 19, which afforded GVCA members and spouses an opportunity to view a mix of both historic and modern architecture as well as visit well-known sites.

George said Berlin was chosen as the destination in part because of its well-known history.

“I think everyone, at least in my age group, is aware of the Berlin wall going up, the wall coming down,” she said. “The fact that they have done so much rebuilding (since the Second World War) was a draw as well.”

George said city planners put in place “some pretty strict” guidelines when it came to reconstruction.

“It was mind-boggling to see how these rebuilt structures look like they have been there forever,” she said.

In addition to architectural tours of various facilities, the trip included visits to such venues as Checkpoint Charlie, underground bunkers. A reception was held one evening at the Canadian embassy. “I was thrilled we were able to arrange that,” George said.

Lunch one day was at the roof garden restaurant at the Reichstag, which houses the German government. The building was restored by British architect Sir Norman Foster. It is crowned with an enormous steel and glass dome.

The trip was the first such out-of-country event organized by the Cambridge-based GVCA. George said another such trip could be undertaken at a future date, given the positive feedback from those who went to Berlin.

“I’ve got something up my sleeve,” she said. “I just want to run it past my board.”

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