Tag Archives: Art and Architecture

Where the Berlin Wall First Fell: Historic Border Crossing Finally Gets a Facelift

The former border crossing at Bornholmer Strasse may have been the spot where the Iron Curtain cracked wide open, but 20 years on there is little in this drab corner of East Berlin to indicate its historic significance. That is set to change now that Berlin has commissioned a firm of architects to create a new square to commemorate the events of Nov. 9, 1989.

Not all historic places announce themselves with pomp and fanfare. Sometimes they can be modest and unassuming, even a little bit shabby.

The Bösebrücke bridge to the north of Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg district is just such a place. This desolate corner of east Berlin is the spot where the Iron Curtain cracked wide open 20 years ago. It was here that East Berliners streamed past the suddenly moribund Bornholmer Strasse border checkpoint and into West Berlin at approximately 9:20 p.m. on Nov. 9, 1989. Yet today there is little to indicate that this is the place where communist East Germany entered its death throes.

That is soon set to change, however. Berlin’s city government has commissioned a new urban square to commemorate that fateful day in 1989. Just over a week ago, Sinai, a firm which specializes in landscape architecture, was named as the winner of the competition to design the new “Platz der 9. November 1989” (Nov. 9, 1989 Square). Continue reading


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Berlin’s New UNESCO Sites: ‘Bauhaus Is Better Known Abroad than Goethe or Schiller’

Last week UNESCO awarded six housing estates in Berlin the World Heritage seal of approval. Bauhaus Archiv Director Annemarie Jaeggi tells SPIEGEL ONLINE why these examples of modernist architecture are so important.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Dr. Jaeggi, last week, six Berlin social housing projects were included on UNESCO’s world heritage list — all of them examples of the kind of modernist architecture not often chosen by UNESCO. Did you expect the honor?

Annemarie Jaeggi: I was delighted. The bid entailed a huge amount of work. Some people have been working on this for 10 years and I had huge concerns because of Dresden. (The city’s plans to build a bridge may jeopardize the Elbe Valley’s UNESCO Status — Ed.) There was a fear that UNESCO would say that Germany was not working hard enough and wouldn’t deal with any of the bids from Germany. Continue reading

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Through a Different Lens: Female Photographers Depict Their Iran

A unique photography exhibition in central Berlin is showing the work of six young Iranian women. Their styles and vision differ hugely but all of the photographs deal with identity — and many turn the traditional views of Iranian women on their head.

A woman in a headscarf photographs herself in a mirror, pictures of Ayatollah Khomeini cover the wall behind her and her lens also captures three laughing bare-chested men in the corner of a cramped room. The photograph by Mehraneh Atashi of a men’s sports center in Tehran, is just one of 70 striking photographs by young Iranian women on display in Berlin’s Cicero Gallery.

Entitled “Made in Tehran” the show exhibits the work of six young Iranians, all born between 1974 and 1981, who have all studied photography in Tehran. While the woman have very different artistic visions, the photographs are all marked by the theme of identity, of being young and female in today’s Iran and of how that generation views the past. While some of the photographs capture everyday scenes others use collage and other methods to create individual and distinctive photographic styles. Continue reading

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Detritus of Love Gone Bad: Museum of Broken Relationships Hits Berlin

What do an ax, fuzzy pink handcuffs, a teddy bear and a wedding dress have in common? They are all part of a traveling exhibition now in Berlin devoted to relationships that have hit the skids.

On the dusty top floor of a former squat in East Berlin the collection is growing with each passing week. At first glance it looks as if someone had assembled the remnants of a flea market. A bicycle hangs from the wall, while rings, teddy bears, socks, fluffy pink handcuffs and various ornaments are on display.

But the junk, unwanted though it may be, is far from being meaningless detritus. Each of the objects, many of them rather humdrum, were once full of meaning for someone. They are the leftovers of love affairs that didn’t work out. Continue reading

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Building Utopia: Berlin Chases UNESCO Status for 1920s Social Housing

In the 1920s Berlin was the world capital of modern architecture. Now six unique social housing projects from the period are up for UNESCO World Heritage status. The buildings mark a time when star architects like Walter Gropius and Bruno Taut were committed to improving the living standards of ordinary people.

The Carl Legien estate is nestled in a leafy oasis between two busy roads in the north of Berlin’s trendy Prenzlauer Berg district. The groups of apartment blocks are set amid grassy lawns and are designed so that all the balconies face inwards on wonderfully mature gardens. The elegant, curving balconies and big windows at the ends of the cream, pink and blue blocks give the buildings their modern Bauhaus-like appeal.

Doris Kirscht, an sprightly widow in her mid-60s, appreciates the careful thought that went into designing her two-bedroom apartment. “Everything is so comfortable and simple and well thought out,” she says about the flat she has lived in for over 25 years. “And then there are the lovely balconies. It is really wonderful to live in.” Like most other residents, Kirscht jumped at the chance to return to her building after recent renovations forced her to move out for a few years.

Her affection for the apartment is not surprising — Kirscht lives in a 1920s social housing block built by one of Germany’s leading modern architects, Bruno Taut, in 1926. The estate is one of six social housing projects dotted across Berlin that are up for prestigious World Heritage status. They are the city’s official candidates for the seal of approval for sites of cultural and architectural importance awarded by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). Continue reading

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Berlin’s Latest Art Blockbuster: The Most Beautiful French Come from New York

Berliners are in for a treat this summer as yet another blockbuster art show opens — this time it’s French 19th-century masterpieces from New York’s Met. But can the show live up to the phenomenon that was the MoMA exhibition in 2004?

Berlin is covered in an elegant French frosting of red, white and blue, and half-naked ladies coquettishly adorn thousands of posters across the city. Another sell-out art blockbuster show has just arrived in the German capital: This time French 19th-century masterpieces, all the way from New York City.

When New York’s Metropolitan Museum recently undertook mammoth rennovations and an expansion of its historical Central Park home, built in 1880, it took the opportunity to send some of its world-famous collection’s crowning jewels back to where they came from: Europe.

But this grand tour has only one destination: Berlin. Encouraged by the monumental success of an exhibition mounted by another New York art institution, MoMA, in the German capital three years ago, the Met sees the show as a chance to let Europeans know just what a fine collection is housed in the imposing Manhattan museum and, it hopes, tempt Berlin art lovers back across the pond to see its other treasures. Continue reading

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Provocative Street-Art Project in Berlin: Nazi Posters Poke Fun at the Far Right

A Danish art group has put up old Nazi propaganda posters in Berlin — sort of. The posters are altered to suggest Germany get rid of the states where support for neo-Nazis is strongest.

The Danish art group “Surrend” has launched a new campaign to protest against the election success of the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) in parts of eastern Germany. The group launched its latest provocative project on Tuesday by sticking up its own versions of old Nazi propaganda posters in central Berlin.

One of the members of the art group, Jan Egesborg, told SPIEGEL ONLINE that the campaign was designed to show the link between Hitler’s Nazi Party and present-day far-right extremists. He says the group had been shocked at the NPD electoral successes in the states of Mecklenburg- Western Pomerania and Saxony and decided to “poke fun at them.” And they were worried by the increased popularity of the right-wing extremists in Germany. Continue reading

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Historic Tempelhof: An Uncertain Future for Hitler’s Airport

A monument to Nazi ambitions that became a symbol of hope during the Cold War: Tempelhof is one of the world’s most storied airports. Its fascinating history may not be enough to save it from closure. But plans are now afoot to transform it into a luxury clinic.

The intent was to wow visitors to the monumental new Third Reich capital of Germania. Monumental Tempelhof Airport was to be a statement of Nazi Germany greatness, and a stage for Adolf Hitler to be adulated by the masses.

It never happened of course. The dream of Germania collapsed along with the smoking ruins of Berlin at the end of World War II. But the airport was built, and went on to become a vital element of the massive Berlin Airlift, and one of the most enduring symbols of West Berlin’s ability to survive its isolation deep within Communist East Germany. Continue reading

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