Architectural Change: The German Way

In Berlin, Books-1, The Art of Travel Fall 2014 by Lila Faria

The first time I opened my copy of The German Way by Hyde Flippo, I found myself instantly criticizing the text. According to my limited knowledge of the German culture, Flippo’s interpretation held multiple inaccuracies.

First off, I’ve never seen the “gray writing paper” mentioned on page 40. The paper here comes in multiple unusual sizes – “A4” is the standard, followed by “A3,” “A2,” and “A1” (listed from smallest size to largest) – but every sheet I’ve seen has been white.

The Austrian “Schilling” mentioned on page 11 is also uncommon; a recent trip to Austria taught me that the local currency was now the Euro. A woman I met in a diner in Vienna told me this was a result of the recent European Union, which occurred in 1999.

Confused by Flippo’s false information, I quickly checked the book’s date. Apparently, it had been published around 1997. It was fairly recent, but it was still outdated; many things in Germany had changed.

During my time in Berlin, change has been a recurring theme. The city itself seems to attract it.

Rainbow Buildings

Rainbow Buildings

One example of this includes how the end of World War II encouraged architectural revival within the city; a change that the city is now famous for. Merely by biking from my dorm to my academic center each day, I expose myself to a range of different architectural styles: European buildings kept from the past, slightly newer modernized institutions, and intelligently designed urban areas that were probably added within the last few years. The buildings show the remnants of old and new styles, allowing me to see how the city has changed its architectural designs over the course of the last few decades.

Berlin’s architecture today is especially fascinating, because it allows room for fun. All the destruction resulting from World War II has allowed for architects to come up with interesting new designs for demolished areas. Although some of these designs are traditional, many were built in cute, clever ways.

The GSW Immobilien building found on the corner of Charlottenstraße and Rudi-Dutschke-Straße, for example, is well known for its unique (and modern) insulation design. Many of the governmental buildings – including the famous “Washing Machine” (German Chancellery) building – are also known for their fun, unique designs. Even the collection of buildings located on Charlottenstraße between Rudi-Dutsche-Straße and Zimmerstraße [pictured above, on the right] are interesting: Although they hold ordinary things, they have been painted in an array of colors – ranging from pink to blue to green – that look downright pretty.

The German Chancellery Building (AKA "The Washing Machine")

The German Chancellery Building (AKA “The Washing Machine”)

Another famous example of Berlin’s changes over time is the tearing down of the Berlin Wall. This historic act allowed both East and West Berlin to live together in a capitalist society, after years of communist vs. capitalist separation. It created space between the two districts that have yet to be filled by architects and urban planners. It allowed citizens from either district to live wherever they want, whenever they want. It was an act that represented a German Reunification, changing the lives of Berlin’s citizens forever, and it happened a mere 24 years ago.

Today, the Berlin Wall’s affect on the city is still apparent. People living in the city reference the event as if it’d happened just yesterday. After all, to them, it did – 24 years isn’t a long time at all. The city is still recovering.

Flippo’s The German Way taught me numerous things about Germany I hadn’t realized before. It taught me about some of the nation’s history, especially in the realms of politics and culture. It also reminded me of how lucky I am to live in a city so influenced by change: I am constantly exposed to new, modern events, ideas, and institutions, merely by living here. It can be overwhelming to be constantly exposed by such a steady flow of innovation, but it can also be exciting; it’s all about perspective!

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