Monday, 29 March 2010

The Technical Museum

On the last morning I visited the technical museum in Berlin. It is a huge museum, covering lots of technologies, all housed in a former railway station and its sheds. I was there mainly to look at the textile, paper making and printing technologies. There were lots of different weaving machines and mechanisms to look at and it was a really interesting museum. There were a few interactive exhibits and it was possible to see demonstrations of the machines but unfortunatly not on the day I visited.

Some films I made of the interactive weaving exhibits:

The use of the old railways sheds was really interesting and it seemed like all the old mechanical devices had been left in place. The grounds were full of old bits of machines, as well as a couple of windmills!

The Bauhaus Archive

I had visited the Bauhaus Archive on a previous visit to Berlin but it is always very inspiring to see the innovative new ways in which the school worked and the importance they placed on crafts. They had some nice examples of textile pieces and more interestingly the designs for the textiles. The actual displays in the archive are quite small but I think that they have much more material kept in private storage and they also lend a lot of material to other museums/exhibitions. As well as the permanent collection there was a small exhibition on classic Japanese design which contained some really beautiful objects.

On the way out we picked up these interesting quotes being used as promotional literature to encourage you to become a member of the Archive:

Ampelmann Berlin

When walking around Berlin you can't help but notice that some of the traffic light symbols are different to other more traditional European ones. The ampel men were an East German invention, designed in 1961 to combat growing levels of road traffic accidents the ampel men were designed by traffic psychologist Karl Peglau who found that the public react quicker to appealing symbols. Soon the ampel men had become part of everyday life, being used in TV advertisement for traffic safety and also in schools and educational videos. When Germany was reunified the West German authorities wanted to get rid of the Ampelmann and replace him with a more standard European style symbol. The only thing that saved the Ampelmann was the designer Markus Heckhausen, he used the symbol in his products, creating glass lights in the shape of the glass men. This raised the profile of the Ampelmann and soon supporters had formed the 'Committee for the Preservation of Ampel Men' and the media were on board. The Ampelmann was saved and now as well as being found in East Germany he can also be found in a few new West German towns directing pedestrians across selected crossings.

In Berlin the Ampelmann is an interesting symbol of the division between East and West. You can often tell which part of the city you are in simply by the traffic lights. The story of the ampel men is a positive one and probably one of the only nationally embraced symbols of old divide. Now the Ampelmann is something of a tourist money making scheme with some of the most clever marketing I have seen. The Ampelmann shop contains every Ampelmann product you could ever want or need, including; pasta, sweets, towels, bottle openers, mugs, bags, clothes, coasters, chopping boards, lights, vases, door stops.....the list is endless! I particularly liked these 2 postcards:

Make Your Own Neues Museum

I found this postcard in the museum shop, it is plans to make your own 3D model of the Neues Museum. It looks incredibly hard to do at postcard scale but maybe if I find myself at a loose end I will enlarge it to A4 and have a go!

Postcards from the Neues Museum

The Neues Museum in Ruin

The Museum in 1980

Alterations by David Chipperfield

Illustration by Susanne Mocka

Repaired Paintwork

Visit to the Neues Museum

My main reason for visiting Berlin was to go to the Neues Museum which has recently been reinvented by David Chipperfield and Julian Harrap Architects. I again focused on the textures, patterns and materials throughout the building as I think it is the attention to detail which really makes this renovation so successful. I really admired the building before I went and had visited an exhibition about it at the Design Museum in London but getting to experience the building first hand really made me appreciate the massive scale of the spaces and the huge amount of work and research which went into the design and restoration of the galleries. I have far too many photos to put up on this blog but I have collected some together in a series and also scanned in some of the postcards I bought.

External Details: Repaired plasterwork is left visible, contemporary materials differentiate between old and new, concrete composite is used throughout, bullet holes litter the facade, new materials create interest through texture, new brick is used where damage was too great to be repaired.

Internal Structure: Floors are repaired where possible, columns are left with damage visible, existing structure sits side by side with new, mosaics are prominent throughout, existing ceilings have been retained and exposed.

Internal Surfaces: Original brickwork is exposed, surfaces vary between old and new, damaged paintwork is left to give a true representation of original colour schemes, existing signage and displays remain from the old museum.

It is clear from the outside of the building where new building has occured, as you can see from this photo the left hand wing is in contemorary brick. This part of the building was too badly damaged to repair.

This change is also evident inside, the new galleries use Chipperfields white concrete composite and exposed brick but keeps the form and proportions of the original building.

A dome had to be replaced internally, the unusual shape had to be modelled using individual timber blocks as bricks. The dome houses a single statue which is lit from the skylight above.

The lighting and design of the display cases in this gallery were beautiful, the objects on display were given importance due to the theatrical setting and were enhanced by the shadows they created.

Some external views of the Museum:

The Berlin Wall Memorial at Bernauer Strasse

During our stay in Berlin we rented apartments near the corner of Bernauer Strasse. The end wall of the apartment block would have formed part of the inner Berlin wall and was right on the edge of the 'death strip' - the gap between the Soviet controlled East and the French West. A plaque on the side of the building described the capture of Berliners trying to tunnel from West to East. Bernauer Strasse forms part of a large memorial to the wall. As well as the Chapel of Reconciliation (see earlier post) there are large sections of the wall remaining and work is starting on a new developments to a commemorative landscape. The Berlin Wall Memorial was established in 1998 by the Federal Republic of Germany in memory of the city’s division and of the victims of the communist tyranny. The design by the Stuttgart architects Kohlhoff & Kohlhoff preserves sixty meters of the former border strip in their original depth as a physical reminder of the Wall.

Map showing the scale of the division imposed by the wall and the site of the memorial

The Saudi Arabian Embassy in Berlin

The Saudi Arabian embassy in Berlin was designed by NF Architects, with interior design by Braun & Schlockermann and Partner. The building interested me because of the curved front facade which is clad in a metal fretwork pattern. It evokes the feeling of islamic tile and textile design whilst being very contemporary. It was very difficult to photograph the building because of the very high and imposing fence surrounding it!

The Chapel of Reconciliation

The Chapel of Reconciliation in Berlin was built on the site of the Church of Reconciliation which was destroyed by the GDR in 1985. The Church of Reconciliation was consecrated in 1894, it was a large neo-gothic structure built for the growing area of Wedding. When the Berlin wall was built in 1961 the outer wall went across the pavement in front of the church and the inner wall just behind it- leaving the wall in Soviet controlled no-mans land. The GDR decided to destroy the church in 1985 because they saw it as a symbol of opposition, the Protestant church was a home for free speech and opponents of the Soviet regime. However when the church was destroyed the images of the collapsing steeple were broadcast around the world causing an outcry against the regime and assuring that the church and all that it stood for passed into legend.

The Demolition of the Church of Reconciliation in 1985

The Chapel of Reconciliation was built to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall. The design was by Berlin architects Peter Sassenroth and Rudolf Reitermann. It was built as a place of remembrance and contemplation. The site of the old church was returned to the parish for religious use after the fall of the wall and reunification of Berlin. The foundations of the site were still visible and these foundations anchor the axis of the new oval chapel. The materials used to construct the chapel are very understated and modest. The main inner space is made from rammed, load bearing earth and was the first rammed earth structure to be built in Berlin. When they created the mix for the earth they incorporated rubble from the old church as a symbol of remembrance. The outer space is created by simple timber louvers which create beautiful shadows internally. The bells from the old church were recovered and are now housed in a wooden frame near the entrance to the site, when they are incredibly loud, giving an impression of the once grand church which stood on the isite.

Berlin Photo Series - Pattern, Texture and Surface

I recently returned from a trip to Berlin, during my time there I took a series of photographs focusing on the pattern, texture and surfaces in the city. All of these images are at a micro scale and I think collectively they give a good view of the city which captures the atomosphere and architecture from a different perspective. I focused on the materials and patterns because these things have become important in my own work. I found the trip really useful and will be posting lots more about Berlin soon!