All images © Blue Crow Media
WE’VE COVERED BLUE Crow Media’s collection of Modernist Maps in the past, including an overview of the series (which you can read here) and a look at their remarkable Pyongyang Architecture Map. Their newest addition, the Brutalist Berlin Map, joins London, Paris, Sydney, Boston and Washington in their sub-series on Brutalism, and serves as a fitting companion to 2016’s Modern Berlin Map. This newest map repeats some of the structures from its Modernist counterpart, which is to be expected given the ever-shifting overlap of Brutalism and Modernism: namely, the Mäusebunker, Corbusierhaus, Akademie der Künste, and the Czech Embassy, among others. Ultimately, while each map has more than enough unique entries to act as a standalone guide, the combination of the two offers even greater opportunities for exploration, as well as a perfect jumping-off point for further discussion.
For those preternaturally disposed to raw concrete and minimalist geometric structures, discussions of Brutalism versus Modernism in urban settings can veer into contentiousness, and any artifact that hints at being a complete survey of a city’s offerings will inherently have calibrated its architectural litmus test too stringently for some and too loosely for others. Fortunately, the Brutalist Berlin Map forgoes such language, instead presenting its featured buildings as a curated selection of the city’s finest examples, best discovered on foot with map in hand.
A close-up view of Moabit and Hansaviertel on the Brutalist Berlin Map. The grayscale structural footprints offer fascinating insights even of non-featured buildings, such as the five-pointed starfish of the Moabit JVA prison (center-top) and the serpentine squiggle of the single long building on Joachim-Karnatz-Allee (southeast of the prison near the river).
The maps in the series take a stringently minimalist approach, forgoing street and district names in favor of specific building addresses and nearby transit stations, and using actual building footprints from OpenStreetMap. This distinctly 21st-century approach considers that most tourists and urban explorers will have smartphones and thus not need too many wayfinding specifics, while still providing enough details for those who may, by choice or necessity, go entirely analog.
Both the Modernist and Brutalist maps feature a surprising number of structures from the former West, with the latter even including several structures beyond the Havel. Marzahn and Lichtenberg, the Eastern elephants in the room, feature in neither map, though their socialist housing estates are perhaps ubiquitous enough to warrant entire maps of their own. Felix Torkar, curator of the newer map and member of SOS Brutalism, rightly emphasizes that naked concrete and sharply minimalist high-rises were the sole province of neither East nor West. West Berlin built numerous “socialist”-style blocks of its own at the edges of the city, just as many other cities in West Germany did, to address postwar housing shortages.
In another interesting aside, Torkar suggests Berlin’s unique position as a Cold War epicenter gave it a predilection, either consciously or subconsciously, for bunker-like buildings capable of withstanding a nuclear attack. While the map stops short of listing actual Nazi-era bunkers such as the Schwerbelastungskörper and Bunker Reinhardtstraße, it poses the implied question of how such structures, born of purely defensive needs, fit into the modern urban landscape. In a city as unique and complex as Berlin, questions like this never have straightforward answers – but asking them opens up fascinating opportunities for exploration and discovery.
Brutalist Berlin Map / Brutalismus-Stadtplan Berlin
Text by Felix Torkar
Bilingual English / German text and listings
Blue Crow Media, £8