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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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.

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!



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).