Dach in the day

This building is located in the grounds of Schloss Schmerwitz, a crumbling landhaus and former home of the Zentrale Schule für Kampfgruppen (ZSKG) Ernst Thälman, near Wiesenburg, Fläming. The Schule was a paramilitary organisation which trained ordinary working SED party members in the art of modern warfare during their lunch breaks or after work. A bit like a hardline socialist version of the UK’s Territorial Army. I assume this building also belonged to the ZSKG because it’s located directly opposite the Schloss. Much of the complex and its surroundings are now occupied by the Bildungszentrum Schloss Schmerwitz, a vocational training centre, and a retirement home. I wonder if any of the residents were students at the military school?

I’ve already featured one of these waved-shaped roofs –  known as the ‘VT-Falte’  orVT Faltendach‘  – in another post.  I liked the contrast between the dilapidated country manor, with its elaborate, picturesque garden and the once ultra-modern GDR structures.

I took a peek behind the gaps in the net curtains (see below) and was glad to see a fully intact GDR-era interior, complete with fake wood panelling and 1960s chairs as well some fantastic fixtures and fittings. Next time I’m there, I’ll try to get inside to take some pics. The hall’s location (in the grounds of a stately home and surrounded by a lot of abandoned buildings) means it’s very vulnerable to demolition. As Prussia 2.0 continues to throw off the yoke of Communism, nothing is safe. Well, architecturally-speaking at least.

Here’s Schloss Schmerwitz in its full glory, incase you’re curious…

And here’s a link to a cyclist’s account of his trip to the area in 1990, after the fall of the Wall, but before the GDR was dissolved. The translation isn’t brilliant, but the text still makes for fascinating and entertaining reading. The pictures are great, too.

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Through the looking glass

These coloured glass tile windows are ten a penny in Brandenburg, but every time I see one I wish I had a house in the country/dacha/local community centre with one on the side. The example above is from a house in Schlamau, and the larger wall window pictured underneath is from a building in a complex of largely abandoned GDR buildings in Schmerwitz. I’ve included more images of the building and the surroundings in the next post.

Sehr Komplex

This rippled facade can be found at the bottom of a highrise on Krausenstrasse/Leipzigerstrasse in Mitte. The building is part of the Komplex Leipzigerstrasse, a series of tower blocks designed by Werner Strassenmeier and the Joachim Näther collective, which were built from 1969 onwards.  I assume there’s no immediate risk of it being removed, as the building has already been renovated once since the Wende. But you never know….

The Komplex buildings were formerly known as the ‘Springerdecker’, because were apparently built to obscure the news tickers on the top of the GSW building next door in the West, as well as the source of the news itself, the Axel Springer building. The architects subsequently denied that, however. The more flashy tower blocks on the northern side of the Komplex were used to accomodate foreign diplomats, western journalists and, of course, the Stasi.

The ground floor space behind this facade was formerly home to the marvellous Museum of Letters and is now occupied by a nursery. The rest of the building is primarily inhabited by East German pensioners and a few upwardly mobile types. I bet the former could tell the latter a tale or two.

Flower Power


I found these flower-shaped bricks on the entrance to a building in the  GDR-tastic Buchbergerstrasse (formerly Eckertstrasse/Oberweg) Lichtenberg. I can’t find any information about who designed them, but have seen the same design on other buildings.

The building dates from the 1980s and now home to the ‘Berlin Rockhaus’, which rents out rehearsal rooms to musicians. The interior was partially renovated in 2000, but a look at the Rockhaus website suggests that it still has a strong whiff of GDR about it. It’s probably worth checking out, as is the street, an industrial estate which backs onto Bahnhof Lichtenberg. It looks like it’s remained largely untouched (unsullied!) by developers since the Wende. My kind of place, then!



Animal Magic!

I stumbled upon this amazing mural in the Gesamtkunstwerk that is Tierpark Zoo in Friedrichsfelde. The zoo has featured rather heavily in this blog, due to the abundance of fabulous East German design within its walls.

This mural decorates the wall of a small pavilion/shelter & easily overlooked if you’re not looking out for it. I’ve been unable to dig out any provenance info, but am going to check out a book about art in the Tierpark by its one time director Heinrich Dathe, which may provide some insight into its origins.
These pics, taken on a dingy day, without a flash and in a hurry, don’t really do the mural justice, so it’s worth going to check it out ‘in the flesh’. It’s especially worth visiting Tierpark now, as its magnificent wildcat house Alfred Brehm Haus (built 1956-1963) is set to undergo ‘environmentally-friendly’ renovation, which despite the fact that the Haus is protected, will invariably mean the loss of some of its original features.

The statistics show….

…that if it’s East German public art, it’s probably not long for this world. This is a metal sculpture on the side of the condemned Haus der Statistik on Otto Braun Strasse.

It’s already been removed (see below). Which means you’ll have to make do with the pics above. Not really the same though, is it?

Mensch!

As promised, here are some images of Walter Womacka’s mural ‘Der Mensch dass Mass alle Dinge’ (Man, the measure of all things) being removed from the side of the Ministerium für Bauwesen in Breite Strasse last year.

The mural was mounted on the front of the building by Womacka and his students from the Kunsthochschule Weisensee (where he was rector) in 1968. It consisted of 350 copper panels covered in ceramic paint.

In summer 2010, Berlin city council announced that the building was due for demolition. It couldn’t find a home for Womacka’s mural (which is a whopping 15 x 6 metres) and was threatening to bin it, until WBM Mitte housing association stepped in at the last minute and agreed to cover the costs of removal and storage. It did so allegedly because Womacka had been one of its tenants since the mid-80s. WBM Mitte also owns the Haus des Lehrers on Alexanderplatz, which is decorated with Womacka’s iconic mosaic frieze, ‘Unsere Leben‘ (Our Life).

The mural was removed on 4th/5th October 2010. Each of the plates was taken off carefully and lowered down very unceremoniously in an Ikea bag. They were then packed into wooden crates. I expected an audience, but there was no one there, just me, a foreigner with a crap camera, snapping away. It was a bit of an undignified ending for the mural. However much of a stubborn old GDR apologist he was, I’m glad that Womacka didn’t live to see it happen.

The Womacka society had attached a series of posters to the surrounding fence, announcing the ‘Day of the Removal'(!) which included a biography and a list of his works already destroyed since the Wende, as well as the protected & endangered survivors. I was shocked to discover the relief on the Haus des Reisens on the list. No GDR era art, it seems, is safe, unless it’s already survived a renovation (see the mosaics on the Haus des Lehrers & Cafe Moskau).