Schwedt ready!

2014-01-04 13.46.49This post comes to you from Schwedt Oder. For non-German readers: it’s a town situated in north-east Brandenburg (Uckermark) on the Polish border. It was largely destroyed in WW2, and subsequently became a hub of industry. It’s still home to a major paper manufacturers and an oil refinery (an oil pipeline from the USSR ended there). In the 1960s and 70s,  the incoming workers needed housing and so a lot was built in the town during this period. Despite the dominance of GDR-era structures, Schwedt isn’t the mine of untouched East German public art that I had expected. Many of the buildings have been repainted in a defiantly un-GDR colours: pale yellows, pinks, oranges, purples and terracotas. But the upside of the town’s redecoration is its slightly toytown-esque feel, which makes it a jollier place to visit than many other towns in the former East. The downside is that you have to look a bit harder than usual to find things (apart from the very obvious GDR murals, more of these to follow) – my companion and I spent much of the day wandering around fairly nondescript housing estates, hoping that we’d suddenly be confronted by some amazing mosaic. Which we were, a couple of times.

The metal sculptures pictured below can be found on the sides of the lowrise Plattenbauten inside the Julian Machlewski Ring.  As usual, I have no provenance info (this has to change!!!), so what follows is just some speculation, rather than useful facts about the art. Given the context, I think we can, however, assume that these sculptures make reference to local industry or more general East German/Socialist achievements and ideals. 2014-01-04 13.46.56This one contains a classic East German symbol- the dove- representing peace - coupled with a very schematised flower. Nice and utopian. Maybe the flower could refer to something local? 2014-01-04 13.47.022014-01-04 13.36.33I assume this microscope with an eye relates to science of some sort (you wouldn’t know I have a degree in art history, would you?). It’s got a very nice 1960s sci-fi aesthetic. Looks like it could belong to some sinister global corporation.

2014-01-04 13.36.37 2014-01-04 13.36.182014-01-04 12.43.56This one is some kind of reference to the processing of dairy and corn/wheat products, I assume?

2014-01-04 12.43.37 2014-01-04 12.53.16 2014-01-04 12.52.43And this snake resembles the kind of thing that’s normally found outside pharmacies, which mean it has something to do with medicine/the pharmaceutical industry.2014-01-04 13.32.41

Yes, it’s a globe and compass, symbols which I’d traditionally associate with Urania, the Greek muse and patron of astronomy. But I’d also associate them with navigation. But what they mean in this context is a mystery. And the (cyrillic?) lettering inside a book? Anyone? 2014-01-04 13.32.32

 PS Thanks to Carsten for suggesting I visit Schwedt!

Pool’s Gold

IMG_7270This metal sculpture decorates the exterior of the Brauhausberg swimming pool in Potsdam, which is located near the main station. I’d like to have got a picture of the whole thing, but it’s half obscured by an evergreen.  So you’ll have to make do with bits of it & the (almost) seasonal tree next to it.IMG_7269

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In typical ‘GDR Design’ tradition, I know the name of neither the architect nor the artist behind the sculpture. But I do know that the building, which boasts a rather lovely curved roof, dates back to 1971. It was a bit of a prestige object, built to mark the 20th anniversary of the GDR, with everyone from schoolkids to the NVA pitching in during the construction. The pool was used primarily by local swimming clubs and in triathlons, but also occasionally played host to Olympic level events.

IMG_7279The pool is in bad condition (and was apparently riddled with structural flaws from the outset). It has been partly renovated since the Wende, but now seems to have been deliberately left to fall into disrepair, a bit like the Fachhochschule Potsdam which is situated just down the road. The company that owns the pool, Potsdam Stadtwerk GmbH was initially planning on renovating it, but instead, locals have voted for a new one, which will be constructed at the foot of the hill. The building opposite – former restaurant ‘Minsk’-  is perhaps more famous. A lot has been written about it already, so I won’t talk much about it except show you one of the surviving bits of mosaic on the side that caught my eye. The building’s future is unclear.

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IMG_7281But back to the pool: it’s due to be demolished when the new one is finished. Construction is supposed to begin in 2014, which means it’ll be around for a couple more years at most. Maybe I’ll manage to get a picture of the whole sculpture before then….
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GDR design on RBB!

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GDR design, or rather me and my rubbish camera (plus Joel, my Radio Spätkauf partner) feature in an RBB documentary, which was broadcast last night! If you can understand German, check it out!

And, after an incredibly long hiatus, here are some squirrels to celebrate! I saw them on the gate at the entrance to this place, which I returned to yesterday, ca. two years after  first discovering it! Although it thankfully hasn’t been removed, the mural is now in disrepair – it’s covered in damp patches & the paint is peeling off, plus some smart alec has decided to leave bright red tags all over it. The building inside the grounds looks amazing – 1950s, neo-classical Stalinist style architecture, a bit like the stuff you get in the backstreets of Eisenhüttenstadt- and I’m going to see if I can get in and photograph it….
2013-07-27 13.19.11 Squirrels 2013-07-27 13.19.28

Fence for the memories

I spotted this fence in a suburb of Potsdam called Pirschheide, which is very close to Lake Templin. This is a standard GDR-era fence design, which crops up all over the former East. I particularly liked this one because of its colour (no doubt a post-Wende addition) and context, a dilapiated square flanked by 60s/70s-era bars and shops. The square’s centrepiece is a striking building that I initially mistook for a cinema. A bit of research revealed that this is actually Potsdam’s former main station (1961-1993) and that the square was a pretty bustling place a few decades ago. After the Wende, however, most trains were re-routed to what is now Potsdam’s main station, and only one level of the Pirschheide station now remains in operation. There are plans to increase traffic through the station once again, and any attempt to modernise the station will inevitably be accompanied by a demolition/renovation frenzy, which means the GDR structures may not be long for this world. Which I think lends this odd space a sort of transient, romantic appeal.  I digress….

Potsdam Pirschheide Station – Potsdam’s main station in the GDR era