SIGHT­SEE­ING

Ar­chi­tec­tural high­lights of Berlin’s GDR his­tory are hid­den in plain sight. Lau­ren Oyler vis­ited some of the for­mer East Berlin’s ar­chi­tec­tural gems.

Where Berlin - - CONTENTS -

Ar­chi­tec­tural high­lights of com­mu­nist Berlin: a great les­son in his­tory.

Caught be­tween the mid- cen­tury Bauhaus aes­thetic and the Soviet im­pulse to­wards both reg­u­la­tion and in­tim­i­dat­ing grand­ness, Berlin’s re­main­ing East Ger­man build­ings tell a fas­ci­nat­ing story of an at­tempt at an em­pire, and a tour of th­ese com­mu­nist trea­sures is a great his­tory les­son. Start at the Soho House club and ho­tel ( Torstr.1), which once housed the Com­mu­nist Party ar­chives and the Cen­tral Com­mit­tee’s His­tor­i­cal In­sti­tu­tion. Per­haps fit­tingly, most of the ho­tel’s fa­cil­i­ties are closed to all but club mem­bers, but its façade and lobby re­tain the heavy look and feel of So­cial­ist mod­ernism. From Alexan­der­platz, take the U5 for one stop and get off at Schillingstraße to ad­mire

Karl- Marx-Allee. De­signed in the late 1950s by Bauhaus-trained star ar­chi­tect Her­mann Hensel­mann, the im­pos­ing boule­vard was the GDR’s re­sponse to the West’s Kur­fürs­ten­damm. Its eight-story, wed­ding- cake-style build­ings in­spired by Stalin’s so­cial­ist clas­si­cism had el­e­va­tors and other lux­u­ries and were meant for party of­fi­cials, who could ad­mire the glory of their beloved gov­ern­ment right from their win­dows when the 89-me­ter-wide av­enue was used for mil­i­tary pa­rades a few times a year. On nor­mal days, how­ever, the Allee was one of East Berlin’s main shop­ping strips, as at­tested by the still­stand­ing retro signs of shops, like the once-renowned book­store Karl-Marx- Buch­hand­lung, closed since 2008. Another ex­am­ple of aus­tere com­mu­nist beauty is the Kino

In­ter­na­tional cin­ema (Karl- Marx-Allee 33, www.yorck.de), which screened pre­mieres among the Plat­ten­bau pre­fab­ri­cated apart­ment com­plexes and still of­fers a rich movie pro­gram to­day. Fur­ther on is the Cap­i­tain

Pet­zel gallery (Karl- Marx-Allee 45, cap­i­tain­pet­zel.de), a for­mer cen­ter for East­ern art exhibitions that is now an art gallery, and

Frank­furter Tor, where mas­sive Stal­in­ist tow­ers flank the for­mer cen­tral square of East Berlin.

A Plat­ten­bau build­ing stand­ing be­hind the Kino In­ter­na­tional on Karl-Marx-Allee

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