The Just as Real but not so cool Berlin

Klaus Wowereit (the Mayor) ironically describes Berlin as poor but sexy, and let’s face it, the blurb that appears in newspapers and on the TV promote this image. Walking around Prenzlauer Berg, Mitte, Kreuzberg it’s easy to see Berlin as poor and sexy but becoming wealthy and sleazy.

For those who don’t know Berlin: in the center of this picture peeking over everything else is the Fernsehturm. It was built in 1963 in what was then Communist East Berlin. The concept for the structure was to dominate the Berlin skyline and thereby accentuate the superior technology of the pure east in contrast to the decadent west. It wasn’t really successful in achieving the media coup it was seeking, but it has become an icon on the Berlin skyline because there’re almost no place in Berlin it can’t be seen. (I once did a photographic essay on the structure with the working title Designed to Dominate).

But here we are, taking pictures in the old eastern sector of Berlin, not tourist territory, not really pretty at ground level, despite the new jaunty paint jobs on the endless lines of boxes. This is sardine city, a place of high unemployment, boredom, and unrelenting monotony.

This is where modernism got it all wrong. The building may be functional, every inch utilized, but someone forgot it was humans who were going to live here, not machines. No one planned for social interaction, it’s as if they thought that for the disadvantaged it either didn’t matter or wasn’t a concern.

It is as Berlin as Mitte, Kreuzberg, and the other cool areas, but like the crazy cousin in the family, we don’t talk about it.

50mm, f5.6, 1/800sec, ISO100


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