The Man Behind the Pink Pipe

The man behind the pink pipe
Berlin’s Umlauftank, which was conceived and developed by shipbuilding engineer Christian Boës.

Ludwig Leo’s bold embrace of modernity and willingness to experiment make a reexamination of his work especially timely.

The first thing you notice is the color: a dusky rose, better suited to silk than steel. Then you notice the intestinal way that the tube loops around in a sharp curve before narrowing significantly at one end. This is German architect Ludwig Leo’s Umlauftank, designed in 1975 and sited on an island in the Landwehr Canal in the center of Berlin. Used to test the floatability of ship parts, it is the largest circulation tank of its kind—the pipe itself is almost 400 feet long. And it is undoubtedly the most chic. While the reasoning behind the choice of colors (the pink tube contrasts sharply with the dark blue of the building) remains obscure, some architectural historians speculate that it may be an oblique reference to Pop Art.

The Umlauftank, affectionately called the “Pink Pipe” by Berliners, is Leo’s best-known building, and its 2013 restoration was the impetus for a reconsideration of his work. Ludwig Leo: Ausschnitt, an exhibition in Berlin that year, organized by the Wüstenrot Stiftung, has recently been followed by a fine book produced by the Architectural Association, London, which clearly and carefully delineates his process and philosophy—he was a communist who lived in West Berlin, often claiming that he belonged on the other side of the wall ideologically. Leo’s beautiful drawings, lushly reproduced here, offer a sense of his inclination toward tight, cell-like spaces (such as a never-realized dormitory for the Umlauftank).

Aside from the simple pleasure many will have in discovering his work for the first time, Leo’s bold embrace of modernity and willingness to experiment make a reexamination of his work especially timely. “Leo thought that spaces and buildings ought to offer resistance to the user, to generate some kind of friction,” says Berlin architect Justus Burtin, who worked with him. “For him, it was both interesting and stimulating if something, somewhere, was not working in the regular way.” […]

Aline Chahine
Aline is an international licensed architect currently practicing in Canada, she is the reason you are reading this right now, Aline founded the platform back in 2008 shaping the very foundation of Architecture Lab, her exemplary content curation process that defines the online magazine today.
Aline Chahine
Aline Chahine
Aline is an international licensed architect currently practicing in Canada, she is the reason you are reading this right now, Aline founded the platform back in 2008 shaping the very foundation of Architecture Lab, her exemplary content curation process that defines the online magazine today. Highlights Aline founded Architecture Lab in 2008 Lead editor of dan | dailyarchnews since 2019 Founded and Creative Director of DesignRaid Licensed architect with creative sales and marketing experience Experience As full-fledged architect, Aline's background involved a great deal of research that lead to the creation of Architecture Lab as an online database of exemplary design. Her experience snowballed into founding two architecture platforms, Architecture Lab and DesignRaid. Education Aline received USEK’s Master of Architecture in 2004 and BA in English from the University of Toronto
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About Architecture Lab Architecture Lab is a MKR.S Media brand, a website devoted to extraordinary design and aesthetics aiming to promote exceptional aesthetic values and sustainable design in all it's shapes and sizes. Learn more about us and our editorial process and feel free to contact us if you would like to see something in particular on the website, our certified experts will get back to you with the most trustworthy advice as soon as possible. Read all articles by Aline | Follow her on LinkedIn

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