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
THE SCHARMÜTZELSEE, A LAKE in Brandenburg approximately halfway between Berlin and the Polish border, was a frequent destination for those seeking spa treatments and relaxation during the DDR era.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
Now I know why they call Main Street a drag
– Jeremy Gluck, Sorrow Drive
CIVILISATIONS ARE JUDGED by what they leave behind. Sometime around the beginning of the automobile age – that period in the post-war years when car ownership became not merely affordable but essential – it was determined that there existed a proportional relationship between the speed of travel and the size a sign needed to be in order to convey its information to the traveller. Simply put, as roads grew wider and faster, the signs grew larger.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
THE STRETCH OF road between Goffs and Amboy, California, has been around for over a hundred years, and in that time it has been known by many names. It initially formed a part of the National Old Trails Road, a primitive, mostly unpaved cross-country route that predated the establishment of the US highway system. In the late 1920s it was incorporated into Route 66 and under this designation it served for decades as the main thoroughfare through the Mojave desert.Read More
IN THE SUMMER of 2020, Yoyogi Stadium (also known as the Yoyogi National Gymnasium) will come full circle, playing host to the Olympics for the second time in half a century. Built for the 1964 Tokyo games, the stadium's striking combination of viking-ship roof and brutalist concrete is the work of acclaimed architect Kenzo Tange, who also designed the Hiroshima Peace Memorial.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
Phantom Architecture is a series focusing on vanished buildings, both in Berlin and further afield. In this special Palm Springs edition, guest contributor Jesse Simon chronicles the vanished buildings of Palm Springs, the Southern California vacation/retirement enclave that, despite its wealth, must occasionally give a structure back to the surrounding desert.
AT FIRST I didn't realise the hotel was abandoned. It caught my eye while I was driving down South Palm Canyon, just another example of desert modernism. I decided to stop for a few pictures. It was only after I got out of the car that I realised there were chains across the driveway, and thick curtains covering the floor to ceiling windows of the main lobby.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