From the very earliest days of film, Berlin has made essential contributions to the medium, as both a center of production and a filming location. One of the most legendary silent films of all time, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, was made in Weißensee in 1920, part of a golden age when hundreds of films were produced in Berlin's "Little Hollywood". The city itself played the starring role in both Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Großstadt (1927), Walter Ruttmann's kaleidoscopic celebration of the city during the Weimar era, and the beautiful and wistful Menschen am Sonntag (1930), written by a young Billy Wilder.Read more
BUILT BETWEEN 1908 and 1910, the former Schöneberg gas storage and supply tank – better known as the Gasometer – remained in active use for over 8 decades. Finally decommissioned in 1995, its skeletal frame still looms over central Schöneberg.Read more
EACH SPRING, BERLIN emerges from the frozen temperatures of Central-European winter with an incredible show of color: thousands of cherry trees blooming all across the city.Read more
PFAUENINSEL ("PEACOCK ISLAND"), A 100-HECTARE island of forests and meadows on the Havel river, is a singular Berlin curiosity. Its origin as a game preserve dates back to Friedrich Wilhelm I, though it was his great-nephew Friedrich Wilhelm II that first populated the island with the eponymous birds. The island's current peacock population, descendants of the originals, roam the island freely alongside human visitors (and the occasional pack of grazing sheep), and their distinctive hair-raising calls, which can be heard kilometers away, add to the surreal and otherworldly atmosphere.Read more
CONSIDERED BY SOME to be the world’s first industrial designer, Peter Behrens (1868-1940) is also one of the giants of modern German architecture. His legacy looms especially large in Berlin, where two massive building complexes—the Turbinenfabrik in Moabit and the AEG Humboldthain campus in Wedding—tower monumentally over their respective neighborhoods.Read more
THAT SPECIAL TIME of year... when the pastels of the DDR Plattenbauten match the budding flowers.Read more
The Interbau (International Building Exhibition) of 1957 was a bold attempt to not only rebuild but also re-modernize Hansaviertel, the bulb-shaped section of Berlin-Tiergarten that had been devastated by Allied bombs during the war. Designed by a team of modernist architects including Le Corbusier, Oskar Niemeyer, and Walter Gropius, the project presented its angular, geometric, and frequently colorful designs as a Western counterpoint to the grandiose neoclassical rebuild of Karl-Marx-Allee in the Soviet Quarter.Read more
Berlin Typography is a project dedicated to celebrating the incredible range of sign-based type that proliferates throughout the German capital. It reveals an astounding range of typefaces, ranging from traditional blackletter to midcentury sans-serifs to a bewildering spread of outliers (with a particular soft spot for cursive neon, a signature Berlin aesthetic if there ever was one).
The project's tagline, "Words and the City", evokes the corporeal nature of urban signage, with numerous pictures revealing the particular detail given to punctuation, umlauts, and the uniquely German Eszett (ß).Read more
Perigee-syzygy, AKA "supermoon", filmed the night of November 13, 2016 in Berlin. The phenomenon occurs when the moon is simultaneously full and at its closest to earth. While this is the closest such occurrence since 1948, astronomers are quick to point out that the moon during such events is most notable for its brightness - as opposed to its size, which is hard to gauge in an otherwise darkened sky.Read more
Built at the turn of the 20th century, when Charlottenburg was still independent from Berlin, the Kraftwerk Charlottenburg sought to meet the robust electrical needs of the wealthy, growing city. Large pipes transported most of the power across the Spree, which built into the structure of an elaborately-ornamented stone-and-metal footbridge, the Siemens-Steg. Over the following century, its output expanded to include hot water and natural gas, and was able to emerge relatively unscathed from the Second World War.Read more
EVEN IN A city strewn with such a wealth of abandoned architectural oddities, Schloß Dammsmühle stands out as remarkable—both for its age (the main building is nearly 250 years old) and the remarkable (and infamous) pedigrees of some of its 20th-century owners. Built in 1768, it was alternately improved and abandoned through the Weimar era before being commandeered by the Nazis, and in 1940, Himmler made it his base of operations.Read more
Tiny dancers at the Berlin Aquarium, Summer 2016.Read more
Like most of Berlin, our adopted neighborhood of Moabit has its share of signs ranging from the ridiculous to the sublime, including many that have outlived the stores whose names they bear. This far-from-complete roundup features some of the neighborhood's most colorful signage.Read more
Some gems spotted on or around Schlesisches Straße, Kreuzberg during April and May.Read more
Phantom Architecture is a series focusing on vanished buildings, both in Berlin and further afield.
Like so many Berlin locations, the corner of Turmstraße and Stromstraße in Moabit saw multiple buildings rise and fall over not centuries, but decades. The first, the Ufa-Palast, was built in 1925 by the state-sponsored Universum Films AG. Designed by the architect Fritz Wilms (who specialized in theaters), it was a massive, 1700-seat cinema, complete with a classical, columned facade, a lavish foyer with its own phone booth, and a restaurant (the somewhat alarmingly named Café Vaterland) in a separate building just east of the theater.Read more
Among the many buildings currently or formerly owned by Berlin's Technische Universität (TU) are several colorful curiosities, including the Schiffbau, which rises above the Landwehrkanal at the Tiergarten's western edge (and had a brief cameo in the cult film The Apple) and the 60s-era megaliths surrounding Ernst-Reuter-Platz, spanning blocks apiece and often covered in monochrome metal siding. For decades, a lesser-known (but equally colorful) structure sat somewhat north of the campus' gravitational center, at the far northern end of Englische Strasse on the banks of the Spree.
TU sold the eponymously-named 20 Englische Strasse to the Irish investment group Cannon Kirk, who announced its demolition to make way for a housing development called Englische Gärten. After the sale, though, it sat empty for several years, and was eventually occupied by activists in late 2015, who demanded it be used to house the increasing numbers of homeless refugees in Berlin (article here, in German). On September 10th, police evicted all protesters, and soon after, demolition of the building began in earnest.Read more
Lying at the northern border of Berlin's Moabit district, just south of the Westhafenkanal on the U9 line, is U-Bahnhof Westhafen. In a city with so many strikingly varied train stations, Westhafen nonetheless stands as one of the most beautiful and unique: since 2000, the entire station has been home to a massive text-based art installation by artists Francoise Schein and Barbara Reiter, under the auspices of the multi-country Inscrire project.
Westhafen is one of 27 stops on the Ringbahn, which means it's both a U-Bahn and S-Bahn station—but with the latter being a standard, ground-level outdoor station, the texts are limited just to the U-Bahn (i.e. underground) part of the complex and its connecting passages.Read more
Marzahn, in the far northeast of Berlin, isn’t exactly a standard Berlin hotspot. You could spend a lifetime in Berlin without ever setting foot in this former GDR suburb, and while it’s easy enough to reach by train or tram, it’s not exactly on the way to any notable destinations, and lies past other eastern attractions like the Tierpark and the Muggelsee. But as Marzahn resident Bertie Alexander writes, “There’s a secret pleasure in not being caught up in the incessant hype and stereotypical lifestyles of Berlin,” which is a sentiment that rings true for many of us who live in the city’s less-hyped outlying districts. (You can read his excellent piece in its entirety here.)
Aesthetically, Marzahn is something of a time-capsule of the former east, particularly in its housing: as examples of Berlin Plattenbauen go, Marzahn is the ne plus ultra in both quantity and quality. Plattenbauen (“panel buildings”, roughly)—the endlessly-reproducible housing towers that could be stacked indefinitely like brutalist Legos—were one of the trademarks of the former East Germany, along with many other communist countries. These towers of white or gray concrete, accented with whimsically-colored balconies, were megalithic kitsch, sky-high projections of dark whimsicality built to offset crises of overpopulation (particularly, in the case of Marzahn, stemming from immigration from Eastern Bloc countries from the 1960s onward).Read more