Welcome to sullivanhuddle

Kyle and Tea

Kyle and Tea

Hello I’m Kyle and this is my blog. The name of this blog, sullivanhuddle, is derived from the term “sullivan huddle,” which is a phenomenon that occurs when the three Sullivan boys, Kyle, Matt, and Tyler, are at family or other public gatherings and they proceed to “huddle” together in a circle of social anxiety.

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Until Next Time!

First and foremost I need to express every extension of gratitude I can to DCI Engineers and HDG Architects as a whole for providing me with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to complete a solo journey through three personality-laden European cities: Prague, Berlin, and Amsterdam. I’d like to specifically thank Stephanie and Josh Aden as well as Josh Hissong for deciding to provide this wonderful chance for civil engineering and architecture students in Washington, Oregon, Montana, and Idaho to fly across the pond and travel for three weeks. Backpacking through Europe is a dream of many but realized by few. Amy Pugh, the Director of Marketing for DCI, was my main contact for uploading and editing blog posts. She made it very easy for me. I only had to upload my posts and photos to Dropbox and the rest was taken care of by her—along with Jami Sollid and Maggie Whaley, both Marketing Coordinators at DCI. Thanks! Everyone that talked with me during my visit to the Seattle DCI office in March and the guys that took me out to lunch were great. I felt welcomed and included while I was there. And last but not least, I’d like to thank Molly Johnson, the 2014 DCI European Travel Scholarship winner. She was excited for me and happy to talk with me about her experience last summer. I will personally look forward to reading and seeing photographs of the experiences of subsequent scholarship winners.

Not only did I gain knowledge and perspective of the built world in each city, but the solo travel gave me the opportunity to learn a lot about myself and grow on many different fronts. One of the most obvious aspects of solo traveling is having the desire to socialize. You don’t have your friends around you so you have to put that effort in to meet and befriend people. I would say I’m much more comfortable approaching strangers and starting a conversation, although there’s still a lot of room to grow there. For extra mmotivation, I put two quotes on the lockscreen of my phone: 1) “Always do what you are afraid to do,” and 2) “High risk, high reward.” These were both quotes I came across during my three week European Travel tour. I think they were appropriate for this trip. There were few times where I didn’t think about twice about what I was doing and just approached someone and started a conversation. Normally a situation like that would include at least five minutes of internal analysis, deliberation, and anxiety before the first move. In situ, conversation would be relatively easy. I’d like to bring up at this point that my friend, Sasha, from Slovenia, was a large motivating factor in my confidence and desire to approach people. Even though he was with classmates and friends for the two weeks of our Alpine Europe trip, he still approached and met new people like it was the easiest thing in the world.

This trip also gave me opportunities that were much larger than just this trip. I was able to go on a trip for academic credit with OSU as well as secure an internship at a CLT manufacturer and engineering company in Germany. Neither of those would have been possible had it not been for DCI Engineers and HDG Architects in Washington.

Lastly, I would like to share a few of my favorite photographs of architecture and engineering feats that were not posted in a previous blog post over the last three weeks as well as some more quirky photos.

Relaxing Last Day in Holland

Although this post will be about my last day in Amsterdam and of this wonderful trip, do not fret, it will not be my last post. Traveling by free ferry to Noord (a borough, north of Centraal Station), I spent the early afternoon at a café, perusing new commercial construction, existing residential architecture, and a movie theater/museum that looked like a spaceship.

Directly after exiting the ferry, which was only about a three-minute ride across the lake, I walked right up a set of stairs to a café porch. It was getting late in the morning and hunger pangs were creeping up on my stomach quickly. I also felt the strong pull to sit down, enjoy a sandwich and an espresso, before moving on with the busy day ahead, like in the authentic spirit of the Europeans. This café overlooked the large lake/river over which you could easily see Centraal Station and two artistic, structural enclosures. It was a nice place to stay for awhile, as a young MD expressed to me from across one of the several picnic benches lining the deck. The inside of the café was about five times larger than the deck space, and boasted an indoor wall of thick vegetation. The company who built the wall has this one and others on display on their website. This blog calls the café a “cultural mekka”. It was truly an enjoyable place to spend time.

Ambling west along the river, I crossed a bridge over a small canal and right smack into “A’DAM”—one of Amsterdam’s newest additions to its portfolio of modern high-rise architecture. The general contractor must have a sense of humor because the sign in front read, “I’ll be open in early 2016. Until then, learn to play the piano or visit adamtoren.nl”. The top few floors of the high-rise are angled at 45º to the rest of the building. The circular portion in the middle is actually a rotating restaurant. I will have to go back to Amsterdam after I graduate to eat there. I will let you know how it is in a future blog post.

Complementing A’DAM was “The Eye”—a café, movie theater, and movie museum combined into a spaceship-shaped ensemble of steel and glass. Although the jet thrusters were nowhere to be found, there were some zoetropes set up for viewing in the museum. The inside was stunning as well, built akin to an amphitheater of the Greek times except with wood flooring, seating, and stairs, instead of stone.

Next door to A’DAM and The Eye lie an apartment complex of varying architectural styles. One apartment looked like it was a hotel off of Miami Beach while another appeared as if my grandparents were to step outside and wave at any moment. One of the apartments was styled such that it like it was part-New York City brownstone, part-sprouted from the ground, part-jail, part-communist era, part-Quincy Massachusetts, and part-Amsterdam—if I were to give my opinion on it.

Out of the two structures across the water, I especially enjoyed the asymmetrical window-patterning of the white building and the “chip-off-the-block” courtyard at mid-height. The adjacent building sported what appeared to be a giant, Indian Jones slide of some sorts with windows as trapdoors and no safety rails. I’m sure the tenants pay top Euro to occupy a residence with such exquisite features and unique architectural style. In all honesty, I do think it is attractive work; knowing the meaning and background behind the design would be even more appealing.

‘Yaks and Grachts

I didn’t cover this in my first Amsterdam blog post, but I made a friend on the train from Berlin to Amsterdam. During the ride, Louise and I talked for awhile, she played some songs on her guitar, and taught me to strum a few chords as well. It suffices to say that I have plenty of trouble finding rhythm on a guitar. It is a personal goal of mine, though, to learn guitar at some point in my life. It was a good way to pass the six-hour train ride! She was in Amsterdam for a wedding so we exchanged contact information and separated when the train pulled into Central Station.

But, at the end of the week, we decided to get together and go kayaking through the “grachts” of Amsterdam! Sunday started off at a mild 60º F (16º C) and drizzling, with a uniform grey blanket overhead. I packed my swim trunks but was not hopeful. The iPhone weather told me it would be partially sunny in the afternoon and warm up to 72º F (22º C). I had originally planned on paddle boarding (SUP) but taking the advice of the owner, we took the kayaks so we could go faster and see more. Thankfully, after five minutes of being in the water, the clouds parted, the sun started shining, and it was warm again.

Paddling through the grachts at a few feet above water level gave me a unique perspective of both the stationary and dynamic side of the city, and how I fit into that. Opting out of any type of boat tour, this was my first and only time in a boat in the grachts of Amsterdam. Because the grachts were so plentiful, I could easily imagine that the whole of Amsterdam was a body of water and the buildings and roads just sprung up from the seabed—which isn’t too far from the truth. This video explains that the area Amsterdam occupies was just a soggy marshland a long time ago. The first settlers dug out perpendicular trenches from the rivers and piled the soil up, making solid land to build on. Over time, sea levels rose, dams were built, the waterways changed, the land changed, and the city of Amsterdam was realized.

The amount of water traffic and houseboats also made it seem as if water was here first, and the buildings and streets came second. This is the only city I have been to where it is like this. I know Venice is almost the same but I have not had the pleasure of traveling there—yet. The large number of houseboats we came across in our kayaks was a surprise. I had not even explicitly noticed their presence while touring the streets, although that may be due to the fact that the houseboats are only located on grachts farther from the city center where the they are are wider and less crowded with boats. The houseboats had a wide range of upkeep and levels of architectural design to them. Some were graying and growing weeds—or maybe it was a green roof on purpose, I’m not sure. Others were obviously newer and had some style to them. Where most of them looked like mobile-home-esque, rectangular boxes, one or two of of the houseboats actually had a boat shape to them, which was neat.

Most of the bridges we floated under were low, as one passerby on a large boat almost found out the hard way. Fortunately her friend pulled her down at the last minute. It was an exciting experience being able to paddle right along side the bigger boats in the canal and in turn capitalizing on a boat going faster than it should have by attempting to ride it’s wake in our kayaks. Louise and I pondered reasons for thinking that waving and saying hello to everyone seemed like the right thing to do, as a fellow gracht explorer. It felt as though all who were in the grachts were doing something special, and each boat of people we passed deserved that recognition in the form of a wave, a hello, and a smile. We politely asked a group of wine and cheese boat diners if they’d like some river water to go with their meal but for some reason they incessantly declined.

I absolutely love being in or near the water, either in a boat, swimming, or on the shore. I try to bring my swim trunks with me if there is going to be the ever-slightest chance of going swimming, just like on my bike tour in Almere on Friday. I’m not sure what exactly it is that I like so much about it but it makes me happy. Even just writing this and thinking about being in the water is making me smile. I think there’s a sense of freedom you get from being in a totally different world than most people are used to, me included. Plus, I’m always trying to get my adrenaline kicks in order, and being on the water, especially in my own boat, gives me what I need to keep going.

21 Mile Passage Through Dutch Country

Sometime over the course of my first two days in Amsterdam, I decided to look up existing bike routes that I could follow, a sight seeing route per say. I fully expected to find a route within the city, maybe passing by some nice townhouses, a famous museum, or a pretty garden. I happily found an architecture focused bike route. The fact that it was 34 km long did not faze me at the time. The pdf guide estimated a completion time of four hours and I figured they must have been considering the needed duration with respect to a leisurely bicycling pace. That was not the case.

The ride started in Almere, the newest city in the Netherlands. Being a “planned” city, the land was built up in the 1960’s, reclaiming area that was once covered in the waters of adjacent Lake Ijssel (a body of water still connected to the North Sea). Modern architecture covers Almere Stad (city proper) with buildings of all shapes and sizes such as an egg-shaped casino, an apartment building called “The Wave”, and canopy level walkways between residences. I rented a bike from the visitor center in the middle of town and biked around the immediate surrounding area, which was an outdoor mall complex with residences on the upper floors. Leaving the mall area I found “The Wave” residences and beyond that was a dock jutting out into the lake where I joined a group of boys in jumping into a small lake in the town. Continuing on to the next location on my bike route, I quickly realized that this leg of the journey was where most of the distance would be. A 9 mile bike ride to Muiderslot—a castle located about halfway between Amsterdam and Almere—was the goal. The one obstacle I had was time, as the visitor center where I rented the bike closed at 6 pm and it was already 3 pm when I left the dock. I was determined, but this architectural bike tour had now turned into a cycling workout.

I reached the town of Muiderberg, which was almost ¾ of the way to the castle. The bike path ran along Ijmeer, another body of water connected to Lake Ijssel. This place was amazing. The beach was covered with people and the water was covered with windsurfers. The water though, was only about 2-3 feet deep for at least 50 yards from the shore! It was a great place to learn wind surfing because you could easily get back on the board if you fell off. I would have stuck around if not for the fact that I was racing the clock.

Finally arriving at Muiderslot at 4:30, I was not able to go in because they were closing in a half hour. I instead biked down the path through the small town to a bakery where I had the most delicious meat pastries, a slice of carrot cake, and an espresso doppio. Life was good. I made it back to the visitor center with 15 minutes to spare after speeding back and unfortunately having to skip the last visit of the bike tour.

Bike Race Through Amsterdam

Anyone looking for an adrenaline rush in Amsterdam need not turn to a techno nightclub, a street corner drug dealer, or the infamous Red Light District, if that is not their cup of tea. Simply hop on a bicycle near Dam Square and the surrounding tourist areas and you will have found the thrill you’re chasing. Amsterdam, like many say, is a city made for biking, all the way down to the smallest details, like rails to guide you’re bike up staircases so you don’t have to carry it. Not only are the bike lanes clearly marked with mostly white dividing lines but the whole lane is normally a brick red compared to the normal pavement where the cars drive. There are traffic signals for cars, walkers, and bikers. There’s more. Mopeds share the bike lanes, and every so often, so do the cars. More than once I was with in a few inches of being clipped. But it’s all part of the fun! Until someone gets hurt, which I haven’t seen happen yet. Even the bikes themselves have adapted though evolution to protect themselves from theft. If American bicycles and Dutch bicycles were in a Caveman Survival League, the American bikes would be dead, or worse, stolen much more often than the Dutch bicycles. I’m not sure if I even want to publicize this valuable information as I plan on making millions off of this idea. Here it is: Dutch bikes have what is called a frame lock—a simple bolt that is attached to the bike near where the back brake would go, and slides through the spokes of the wheel, preventing the back wheel from turning. To engage the lock, you simply twist the key that is in the lock, slide the bolt in place, and the key is removed. The key is stuck in place when the lock is disengaged and can only be removed when you engage the lock.

One blog author guessed there were as many bikes in Amsterdam as there were people. I’m unsure if he was including tourists in that guesstimate but nevertheless, it gives you a good idea. The only other city I’ve been to that’s had such a high concentration of bikes per area was Cambridge, England. Being a small town but filled with University students, it seemed natural. Amsterdam is a much larger city than Cambridge but you will also find vast numbers of bikes at every bike stand, which are located around every corner and on every street. Personally, I love biking, and would move to this city in a second, although for more reasons then just the biking.

I rented a bike for two hours and zoomed around the city in no orderly fashion whatsoever. I saw an old looking cantilever arm type bridge, which was a neat surprise. Other than that, I just peddled as fast as I could, armed with nothing but a selfie stick and a bike bell to ward off attackers.

On the verge of going back to my hotel room for the rest of the night, I made a last minute decision to check out, once again, another recommended café bar restaurant, called Hannekes Boom. “Boom” translates to tree, as I learned from the friends I made during my time there. It is so called because much of the building is made of wood! I spent an unplanned two or three hours at Hannekes boom eating nachos and drinking ice tea. A successful afternoon would be considered an understatement. The area the Hannekes Boom was located in had a few neat bridges and some modern styled buildings. I will try and go back there before I leave!

Who Engineered the Tilting Houses in Amsterdam?

Amsterdam is beautiful and thrilling! I love the water, I love the streets, I love the houses, I love the craziness of the bikes, walkers, mopeds, trams, and cars. I have seen no other city that looks like this. The appearance of the street pavement and cobblestones may be similar to streets in Prague, Italy, or some other old, European walking cities (LINK TO “SBOHEM PRAGUE” BLOG POST), but the houses are like nowhere else. They are characterized by a tall and skinny shape, deep colored, off-white, and brick façades, and complimentary colored window frames. If you tilt your head, you can see that some of the townhouses are also tilting. I thought that this probably had to do with the fact that the large amount of water in the area causes instability of the soil, but according to two blogs, that is not the case. The houses were apparently designed to tilt forward so that large items could be drawn up the front of the house by homemade cranes without hitting the façade. Houses were designed to be skinny because property taxes were based off of frontage. This made for skinny staircases!

This first day in Amsterdam I made a beeline to the Beijnhof Gardens, the oldest group of houses in the city. It used to be made up of “Beguines”. Similar to Sisters of the Church, they took a vow of chastity but could leave at any time to get married. The current, inner court still houses only women, but they are not Sisters. I paused in the courtyard for about ten minutes as tourists came in and left. There was a chronic chase going on between a white and a black cat. One of the older residents tried and failed at breaking up the mêlée. Two churches occupied the courtyard. One was the original I believe, located in the center, and the other was smaller and in line with the other townhouses. I entered the smaller one and sat in the pews for about twenty minutes. It was well-spent time relaxing and reflecting.

The “Anne Frank Huis” beckoned next. Located on one of the canals, it wasn’t any different then the other houses in Amsterdam, and nor should it be. Tickets should be reserved weeks in advance if you would like to visit this historical place, as the line extended around the block when I was there. If you don’t go in a tourist spot, or even if you do, I recommend reading about it while you are there. I think it is good to be at the location and read about what has happened there at the same time. I use an app called CityMaps2Go where you download all the offline maps and accompanying Wikipedia pages for tourist attractions and more, so I read the Wikipedia pages for the Anne Frank House. Because the GPS in your smartphone works

even in airplane mode, the offline maps still tells you exactly where you are, making navigating a breeze in a new city. No longer are you at the mercy of having to interact with strangers to ask where to go—as a common millennial might say.

Read my next post to learn about state-of-the-art bike lock mechanisms, a visually mouthwatering (eye-watering?) oasis, and the thrill of city biking.

Kyle’s Travel Tip: It is such a stress reducer to buy a metro/tram/buss pass for your entire stay in a city, especially if you haven’t planned everything to a T. You don’t have to worry about finding somewhere to buy a ticket, whether to walk or take the tram, and more. It was only €32 to get a 7-day pass here in Amsterdam. Berlin was similar.

Watering Plants and People at a Parking Garage Rooftop Community Garden and Bar

Museum Island” in Berlin houses a high concentration of museums, as you may have guessed. As soon as I got off the bus on the island I saw dodecahedron-shaped building. Curious, I climbed the steps and entered the exhibition finding that it housed a forum for information and discussion about a new museum right behind it that was under construction. The forum included three levels of interactive exhibits, wood models and more for both adults and children. One of the more interesting stations was a video screen that asked you to pick the dividing point between blue and green on a spectrum of blue and green. Afterwards, it showed a comparison between the results from different lingual groups. For instance, in the Vietnamese language, there is no differentiation between blue and green, it is just called “xanh”.

The architecture of the museums on this island consisted mainly of Greek “prostyle” temples (columns only in front), with a pronaos (front “deck” part) and the tympanon (the triangle top part). The domed building, the Berlin Cathedral, is considered to be in the “Neo-Renaissance” style in its 4th and final version.

A particular beach/bar/pool that I ventured to was one of the most enjoyable times I had while in Berlin. The “Badeshiff”, at only €3 per visit, is a swimming pool that is in the river, accompanied by docks, sand beaches, lounge chairs, a bar, and music. It is a spot-on dugout that I could see myself frequenting if I lived in Berlin. I spent a few hours at the Badeshiff, swimming, talking to the lifeguard, and reading Freakonomics, which had been my pleasure-reading book at that point in time. Right along the adjacent canal is another line of nightclubs, restaurants, cafes, and bars, with a very unique, post-apocolyptic, scrap metal and wood motif to it. Later that evening I found myself at yet another unique watering hole! This one was built up on the roof of a parking garage! The first entrance to the rooftop was up the final sloping driveway of the parking garage. I was told before going to this local hangout that there was a community garden on the roof as well and in fact there was. Not only that but there was a DIY green wall with vegetables and plants growing out of wooden pallets that were hung from the wall!

My final thoughts on Berlin: I would definitely live in this city if the opportunity arose. It is an up and coming city and I think a lot of people, especially the younger crowd, are thinking the same thing. Gentrification occurs here in Berlin and is actually a popular topic of debate, specifically in Berlin. The linked page cites some common complaints of Berlin’s “symbolic” gentrification, such as exclamations of dislike towards the richer populations infiltrating the gentrified neighborhoods. Overall, the quirkiness, lack of imposed judgment, and size of the city are the main characteristics of Berlin that attract me.

What Do Glass and the German State Have in Common?

Combining architectural styles of a Gothic church and an ancient Greek temple, the Reichstag building is one of the main tourist attractions in Berlin, mostly due to the glass dome on the top that houses a spiral walkway leading to a prodigious, 360º view of the city. This German parliament building was first built 1894 but fell into disuse during WWII. The Nazis never used it for governmental purposes. The modern version was completed in 1999 and houses the Bundestag, which is the constitutional and legislative body in Gemany. Security measures abound, such as the necessity of making reservations with a picture ID before hand, a pre-entrance with an airport style x-ray scanning area, and a set of double security doors upon entering the actual building. Along the spiral walkway up the building, the free audio tour provided information about visible buildings as they came into sight. At one point, the audio guide asserted “the transparency of the glass represents the transparency of Germany’s state.” Hearing this made me wonder to what degree the information that these audio guides, or even tour guides, provide true information. Transparency in government is always an ideal, and for them to tell the listener that they are transparent seems like it would naturally make the listener question the claim. I also think that to say that the glass in the dome represents something bigger than what it is, is a far reach. Lastly, many green roofs were visible from the dome of the Reichstag, which is worth noting. See tomorrow’s post for some photos of a sustainability-minded bar.

Mauerpark is another famous area of Berlin. On Sundays, the day I went, there is a flea market and performances at an outdoor amphitheater. I was specifically going for the famous “Bear Pit Karaoke” that took place at 3 PM on Sundays. Unfortunately, it was drizzling every now and then and the karaoke was cancelled. That didn’t stop the throngs of people crowding the flea market, for the large amounts of food stalls, vintage clothing stalls, and other arts and crafts stalls. This is the type of local experience one can take part in if enough time is spent in a city. It might not be on the top of the tourist to-do list but I think it is priceless to be able to experience events like this. Something interesting I thought about while there was to what extent people will get food from a certain stall because they have a big line. One might think because they have such a big line it must be good food, a well-known food stall, or both. After eating from one of these stalls with a large line after passing it by twice, I found out the food was not that great, from this specific place. Belgian Waffles and ice cream were to be had at the next food stall and that was delicious. Before I explored the flea market, I jumped at the chance to join a group of three kids in a soccer-juggling circle at the basketball court in the park. I was ecstatic to have finally found some soccer to play, even though it was just juggling.

After just the first day in Berlin, I noticed a stand out characteristic of the buildings. So many of the larger buildings had prominent, grid-like window layouts. I definitely saw more than the amount of pictures I took of them. Many of the window grids were also tall and narrow. I’m not sure why this was the case, or if it was done on purpose, but it was very obvious to me.

Holocaust, Brandenburg, Tempelhof

The Holocaust Memorial in Berlin was the first Holocaust remembrance site I had ever visited. The site included a graveyard-like area of more than a thousand off-kilter blocks of concrete and a visiting center with immersive text and images set up similar to a museum. On the walking tour I did in Prague, the guide said that the design of this memorial was partially inspired by the Jewish cemetery in Prague, where many Jewish people were buried in a small area and the gravestones were off-kilter and crowded together. Many resources online say that the grid of semi-tilted concrete blocks that range from 0.2 m to 5 m in height are meant to be disorienting and instill the sense of loss like was felt by the Jews and other victims during the War. I slowly walked through the sea of blocks and found that the most intense feelings I got was when I walked from the edge of the array towards the middle, as the ground slopes down and the concrete blocks grow higher. It felt as if I was being swallowed into a grave where I could still see the outside world through the grid of blocks but couldn’t escape.

Like with many memorials, controversy and disagreement are abundant with the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. One of the major critiques is the lack of names, locations, and dates that would represent individuals and the horrors they faced. Some say that the abstraction of the work is a better representation of the human emotion tied to the Holocaust. The underground visiting center also has features where names, dates, and stories are presented. This aspect of the memorial differs from both the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, DC, and the 9/11 Memorial in New York City, where names of victims are inscribed directly on the monument. Another controversy arose during construction, where it was found out that two of the companies involved had provided services for the Nazis during WWII. Construction ceased during this time but then decisions were made to move forward with the same companies. The memorial and visiting center cannot be missed if making a trip to Berlin.

A block away from the Holocaust Memorial lies the Brandenburg Gate, another big tourist attraction in Berlin. I walked by the Gate on two different occasions, one time in the morning when it was quite empty of people. The sun was shining behind the gate and I got a great photo of the Gate silhouetted in front of the sun. The Gate marked the entrance to one of the main streets in Berlin. On that day they were setting up for the Deutsch-Französisches (German-French) Fest that was taking place later that day. I found myself back at the fair around noon where families and other people were enjoying the food and activities set up under different tents near the Gate.

After I finished my touristic duties on this beautiful Saturday in Berlin, I rode the U-bahn and S-bahn to Tempelhof Park, a discontinued airstrip turned park. Although I figured it was going to be big, similar to my thoughts on Berlin in general, I arrived at the park, scanned the horizon, and couldn’t believe the size of it. The park is approximately 2 km in diameter and is made up of large swaths of both grass and asphault. Small shacks rent out segways, scooters, pedal cars, and other small electric and pedal powered vehicles for children. Rollerbladers, bikers, and long boarders enjoy the long, flat expanses of pavement while picnickers, barbecuers, loungers, families, and couples are uniformly spread out on the grass. As you may have guessed, I was there to find a soccer game. As far as I could see with the naked eye, there was only one soccer game going on and it was kids from a big family event playing tournament style. My request to join was rejected sadly enough so another day was spent with no soccer game. Fortunately, the next day brought better news. Nonetheless, I picked myself back up again, juggled my mini soccer ball for a few minutes and then decided to do a body weight workout for about 25 minutes, which I am still sore from and it’s two days later. Tune in for my next post where I will cover the famous Reichstag building, a unique experience at another local park and market, and lastly an analysis of window styles in Berlin.

Tall Timber in Berlin

On Thursday I trekked to the neighborhood of Prenzlauerberg in order to find the famous timber apartment building, E3. This building is a 7-story apartment building located in a residential neighborhood. The façade is covered in a stucco-like paint just like all of the surrounding buildings, in order to match the visual format of the area. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance to get a guided tour of the building by the designer or engineer and thus appreciated the building from the outside. E3 is a “passive house”, meaning it is designed to specific regulations to be more energy efficient. Passive house, unlike LEED Certification in the U.S., has more performance based metrics and is focused mostly just on energy efficiency whereas LEED awards points for more varied aspects of the building. Wanting to meet the architects of the building, I called that day and they said I could come by the office late afternoon the next day.

At the time of the design and completion in 2012, the architect company was Kaden + Klingbeil. Kaden is currently partnered with a different architect. They are located in Alexanderplatz (“platz” = “square” or “space”), one of the major shopping areas of Berlin. I met one of the employees on the elevator ride up to their office and she introduced me to one of the architects who I was able to talk to and ask questions about their projects. I was specifically interested in what the timber concrete composite (TCC) decking looked like, and especially in the way the slabs were connected to each other in order to resist lateral forces. My master’s thesis is concerned with similar issues. I will be testing connections between cross-laminated timber floors panels to how strong and stiff the joint between the two panels are. The architect I spoke to wasn’t able to answer some of my more technical questions but he did show me that the TCC floors were made from glue laminated beams turned on their sides. At the end of the meeting he gave me his email, asking for recommendations on timber buildings he could visit during his trip to Seattle in the near future.

Mass-wood buildings are a relatively new development in the construction industry and have a lot of promising characteristics: better fire performance, faster construction, less expensive construction costs, safer construction, significantly smaller carbon footprint, and more. Cross-laminated timber is the prominent engineered wood product that will be the answer to taller timber buildings, as it can effectively replace concrete and steel as the main structural material of a building.