Germany's exotic buildings by big-name British architects are generously displayed in Michael Jenner's new book, writes Eleanor Young . He identifies Stuttgart's Staatsgalerie by James Stirling, Michael Wilford and Associates as the beginning of a 'phenomenal outpouring' of British talent in Germany in recent years. Its strength of character is typical of the projects shown: the British Embassy in Berlin alongside five other schemes with Wilford's name on them; and work by other architects such as Foster and Partners, David Chipperfield (see left) and Alsop & Stormer.
But, reflecting its origin in an idea from the British Embassy, the book is more of a showcase than a critical study. The coverage of each building is primarily visual, with a brief introduction and extended captions to striking photographs from, among others, Dennis Gilbert and Peter Cook. But the buildings are divorced both from their physical context (even Potsdamer Platz) and their creators. The German partner of Anglo-German practice Alsop & Stormer remains silent, while no mention is made of the fact that Matthias Sauerbruch of Sauerbruch Hutton Architects is actually German.
The bilingual introductory essay suggests differences between German and British culture's relationship with architecture, and the practitioners featured offer a critique on British, rather than German, culture. Louisa Hutton, of Sauerbruch Hutton Architects, says: 'In Germany people are more positive about modern buildings. . . more aware of architecture as part of a wider culture. ' This filters through into the process of construction, says Lord Rogers: 'The German clients can take credit for the British buildings in Germany. '
The book questions why so few Germans have made their architectural mark on British soil. Non-architects Prince Albert and Nikolaus Pevsner are given pride of place among this rare breed. The answer to why German architects do not build in Britain is offered as nationalism on our part; an unexpected, though convincing, conclusion for what is essentially a marketing tool for British-designed architecture.