Collaboration with Photographer, Graeme Vaughan for the Illuminator Online:
At the moment Berlin is cultivating a distinct international presence. It has managed to establish itself as a new mecca for young people who are searching for a different kind of air to breathe. It is a city drenched in freedom and creativity hangs thick in the air; dripping down the buildings and manifesting itself in huge works of street art found on every corner.
There is however a much darker side to the city. Here, poverty is rife.
Between Alexanderplatz and Rosenthaler Platz a man with few fingers and even fewer toes begs up and down the rows of cars that stop at the lights. His skin stretches over the lumps of bone, unsettlingly bare without the usual protrusions. His two toes, curl upwards, balancing his tiny frame. He holds his empty paper coffee cup in the crook of his wrist and when the lights turn green he delicately hops, as if he were walking on gravel, until he reaches the safety of the pavement.
Further east, on the platform of one of those stations on the way to Warschauser Strasse sat a boy unconscious, not quite a man, slumped against the wall. Like a Philip Pullman creation without its demon; his body present but his soul lost long ago. A dog or what is left of it, sits by his side. Its body forms an uncomfortable silhouette, thin like a figure of eight.
These kinds of scenes can be witnessed on a daily basis. It is however not only the people sleeping on the floor and begging in the streets who suffer as bankruptcy flows through the veins of the city, but the city itself. The city’s aesthetic reflects its state: struggling, reliant on tourism and yet to rebuild itself to a state of completion.
When seen from an aerial perspective, Berlin appears as if still ridden with the bullet holes from the war. Like wounds that never healed, vast and empty expanses of space stretch; sporadically scattered as the body of the city finds itself deprived of the architectural nourishment it craves.
Sparse and barren, miniature wastelands rest abandoned, nestled in the shadows of protective fences which shield them from the tourist’s intrusive, darting eyes. Behind the criss-cross metal grid, mounds of rubble sit in the dust and the dirt as the cracked and broken windows look down on the graffiti artists who violate their vulnerability. The grass, not green and fertile but dry and drained of colour juts from the earth, overgrown and liberated by solitude.
Treptower Park, a day of walking in the rain past abandoned fairground rides and the truly monumental soviet war memorial.
Spreepark I (formerly “Kulturpark Plänterwald”)
was open from October 1969 to 2001, now abandoned.
owned by Norbert Witte - closed with debts of €11,000,000
[in 2004 Witte was arrested for attempting to smuggle £14m of cocaine from Peru to Germany in the masts of a ‘flying carpet’ ride]
Soviet War Memorial I
(May 8, 1949)
Architect: Yakov Belopolsky
to commemorate soviet soldiers who fell in the Battle for Berlin in 1945
having spent a long time wandering round the park trying to find this monument, I met two guys, Leo and Jona who told me that they were having some kind of special day, which seemed to include drinking Ouzo and chilli flavoured water. “It’s a strange feeling that I’m having now” Leo said. I’m sure he was!
soviet war memorial II
soviet war memorial III
soviet war memorial IV
Berlin Marzahn with a complicated history including: the first district to be conquered by Red Army forces on 21 April 1945; the site of a labour camp where Roma were interned two weeks before the Summer Olympics of 1936; and where in March 1973 the Politbüro of the SED announced the objective to build 55,000 new apartments by 1980 as a solution to the housing crisis.
Today, Marzahn has the highest number of people per household within Berlin [2.1], and the smallest average living space [32.4 sqm].
Eastgate Berlin (2005). The largest shopping centre in the eastern districts of Berlin.
Architects: Jost Herring, Klaus M Hoffman, Ragna Carstens & Enno Schmacker
Investment Cost: €150m
Sales area: 32,000 sqm
Jan Petersen Straße
Starting at the Bibliothek Friedrichshain-Kreutzberg….
Central Library Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg (2010)
Frankfurter Allee 14a
a former school remodelled by architect: Peter W Schmidt
Architect: Dominique Perrault
Velodrom - towards Forum Landsburger Allee
Denkmal des polnischen Soldaten und deutschen Antifaschisten (1972)
monument to cooperation between the communist polish people’s army and german communists in the struggle against national socialism
Sculptors: Zofia Wolkska (pl) Tadeusz Łodzian (pl) Arnd Wittig (ge) Günther Merkel (ge)
Restaurant Schoenbrunn, located in former modernist GDR pavillion
ending here at the Pavillon am Hain
South-Western corner of the Volkspark.