It’s not uncommon for architects to name their projects after locations (think West Village Townhouse, Sonoma Ranch, Seattle Cabin, and the like). And that’s what Hagar Abiri had in mind when she christened her overhaul of an old Berlin apartment. But the name she ultimately came up with, while indeed location-inspired, is vastly more provocative than standard project titles.
She dubbed her project “Poor but Sexy.” What does it have to do with location? Everything. “The phrase is a quote by the ex-mayor of Berlin, Klaus Wowereit, who said ‘Berlin ist Arm, aber sexy,'” says Abiri. Translation: “Berlin is poor but sexy.” (It was ultimately used as a tagline in a campaign to market the city as being friendly to newcomers of all types, but especially to the creative class.) The phrase seemed to her a fitting description for the East Berlin apartment that she updated and redesigned, on a budget, for an expat family from Tel Aviv, Israel.
While many of Abiri’s design decisions were indeed budget-based, they also conveniently aligned with her ethos of honoring the past when appropriate. For instance, she opted to retain much of the apartment’s fundamentals—the flooring, doors, and exposed walls—which not only kept costs down but also created an artful tension between old and new. Have a look.
Photography by Diana Adam, courtesy of Hagar Abiri Architecture & Design.