Now open at Berlin’s Kunstgewerbemuseum, Retrotopia: Design for Socialist Spaces is “a collaborative exhibition project that looks at the role and influence of design in the countries of the former Eastern Bloc and former Yugoslavia between the 1950s and the 1980s.” The exhibit features photographs, objects, and recreations of designed spaces from throughout the Soviet bloc, and includes many designs that never made it past the concepting and drafting phases.
Q Berlin 2022, “the metropolitan conference for the immediate present”, took place at the International Congress Center in Westend on September 15-16, featuring a hybrid assortment of talks, performances, and other events. The massive, brutalist ICC was built in 1979 and closed in 2014, though it is occasionally used for one-off events.
FOUNDED IN BERLIN in 2017, Rixdorf Editions is an independent press dedicated to publishing neglected German texts of the late 19th and early 20th century in new English translations. In focusing on previously untranslated works of the pre-Weimar “Wilhelmine” era, the press sheds light on a literary era that is often overlooked, despite having produced writing as startlingly creative and groundbreaking – if not more so – than the more famous movements that would follow.
Blue Crow Media, perhaps the foremost current publisher of city maps focused on modernist architecture, returns with the Berlin U-Bahn Architecture and Design Map. Like the previous entries in their series showcasing the architectural highlights of urban transit systems – London, New York, Paris, Moscow – the Berlin entry is attractively printed on thick, sturdy paper with a die-cut slipcase.
Also like the publisher’s previous offerings (including the Brutalist Berlin Map and the Pyongyang Architectural Map), the emphasis is less on wayfinding and more on presenting a minimalist and straightforward overview of the city’s architectural highlights. Rather than throwbacks to a purely analog era, where maps had to be followed street by meticulously detailed street, Blue Crow creates physical maps that are intended for the 21st century, in that they offer a clean, simple overlay of a city while leaving much of the work of navigation and transit connections to our ever-present smartphones. This stripped-down approach allows each map to focus on the essentials without getting bogged down in cartographic details that would likely be made redundant by modern technology.
From August 12 – September 5, 2021, the sound festival Sonambiente took over Berlin’s recently decommissioned Tegel Airport (TXL). Various sound-based installations took over the airports corridors, gates, and waiting rooms. As the airport saw its final flight in November 2020, and was fully decommissioned in May 2021, the building remained relatively intact, though informational signs and installed businesses (such as in-terminal restaurants) had been deconstructed, and some of the exterior facades had begun to show signs of wear.
MODERNIST ARCHITECTURE IN Berlin is, understandably, a subject heavy with the weight of history. The decades spent rebuilding from the devastation of WWII while split down the middle by two hostile powers meant that, for many building projects, aesthetics played a distant secondary role to functionality. Nonetheless, the severely limited building resources of both East and West did not stop the proliferation of bold, elegant Modernist constructions on both sides of the Wall. With entire neighborhoods in ruins and a postwar population in desperate need of housing and infrastructure, the buildings would be build regardless; the question for posterity was who could transcend the limited resources provided and make a lasting aesthetic impression on the cityscape.
WE’VE COVERED BLUE Crow Media’s collection of Modernist Maps in the past, including an overview of the series 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 implied Venn diagram that maps the ever-shifting overlap of Brutalism and Modernism: the Mäusebunker, Corbusierhaus, Akademie der Künste, 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.