Wednesday, 18 November 2009

The Architectural Consequences of the Berlin Wall

NEO-HISTORICAL EAST BERLIN Florian Urban (Technische Universitat Berlin)

"In all central areas of East Berlin one finds prefab blocks from the 1980s that show similarities to the adjacent late-nineteenth-century tenements and to other historical styles. They were erected on the block perimeter from precast concrete parts and adorned with loggias, gables, bay windows, tile ornaments, and mosaics. Neo-historical relics such as ornamented street signs, cast-iron lampposts, period gift shops, newly built “Old Berlin restaurants,” and a number of partially remodeled late-nineteenth-century neighborhoods bear witness to a new popularity of the old city in the last decades of the German Democratic Republic. How can this change be explained? Why has the East German regime, which for decades thought modernist architecture to be the only appropriate expression of a socialist system, all of a sudden represented itself with rebuilt gothic and baroque churches, remodeled nineteenth-century residences, and newly erected pseudo-historical department stores? Why did East Berlin architects design arbors and ornamented façades in the center, while at the same time the large tower block developments on the periphery were still under construction?"

This timely new book, the first in the Ashgate Studies in Architecture series I am editing, has just been published. Future books in the series include contributions from Frank Brown (University of Manchester), Jan Birksted (University College London) and Duanfang Lu (University of Sydney).

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