While East Berlin was building the prestigious Karl-Marx-Allee, something equally ambitious was happening in the Hansaviertel of West Berlin. Both parts of the severely damaged city wanted to show their strength and resilience after the war, both parts wanted to introduce a new view on architecture and housing. The result couldn’t be more different, however: Karl-Marx-Allee is a typical example of monumental architecture, whereas the Hansaviertel is modernist.
Most visitors to Berlin are familiar with the exteriors of the magnificent buildings at Strausberger Platz. After all, their ornamental architecture and ceramic cladding are hard to miss. For the lucky tenants who moved into these “Workers’ Palaces” once construction was complete in 1955, the spectacular exteriors were only part of the reason they felt so privileged to live here. While the majority of the population in Berlin was forced to huddle in accommodation barely fit for human habitation among the ruins of pre-war buildings, the new apartments at Strausberger Platz met cutting-edge design standards.
Strausberger Platz with its impressive buildings
No, that’s not what I thought when temperatures dropped from 25 degrees Celsius on Thursday to 13 degrees Celsius on Saturday. I didn’t feel like looking for my stockings yet and I actually liked not having to think about jackets and umbrellas. But hey: I live in Berlin and even though there’s quite a lot of consensus about the summers being awesome, every season means new opportunities. Let’s be positive and think about all the good things that are waiting for us now!
Some European cities are filled with statues of emperors, kings and warriors – all recalling long-ago history. Berlin isn’t. It used to have all the usual statues once, but World War II destroyed most of them and what was left afterwards was neatly removed by the GDR leadership. Right now, Berlin is still paying tribute to the heroes of socialism and the working class – and I’ll tell you where to find those icons.
Berlin’s lost historical statues in the exhibition ‘Berlin und seine Denkmäler’. Image courtesy of Daphne Damiaans.