Of Interest

We took a couple of field trips through the week. The first was through central Berlin. We saw many prominent buildings including Neue Wache, Konzerthaus and Altes Museum all by Schinkel. We also got to see IM Pei’s wing for the German History Museum.

The second was to the Freie University Library in Dalem where Norman Foster added a new Philology Library in 2005. This library has a very high energy efficiency rating thanks to its double skin which is held by a self-supported frame system. It utilizes defused light, natural ventilation and a passive thermal store system in its concrete floors. The 3 story’s have very dynamic geometry’s and utilizes the most space possible within the cocoon-like dome. It was quite amazing to see in person.

Potsdam

On Saturday, we took a field trip to Potsdam, the residence of Prussian royalty. Without any preconceptions about our trip, we quickly realized that it was going to be an amazing day. We started off quickly as there was much to see. We saw Schinkel’s St. Nicholas’ Church, which was completed in the mid-19th century. We then made our way through the Dutch Quarter, which is said to be the largest collection of red brick Dutch style housing outside of The Netherlands. We encountered another monument, the  Brandenburg Gate (not to be confused with the one in Berlin), commissioned in the 18th century by Frederick II of Prussia. The rest of the morning was spent visiting many fascinating buildings including the Nauener Tor.

After lunch, we continued the excursion through the Church of Peace to the enormous 270ha Sanssouci Park, which was truly impressive, as each palace was more impressive than the previous. We spent hours exploring the baroque landscape and the palaces that were hidden there. The variety and incredible scale of Sanssouci Park will leave a lasting impression. We finished the day with the modest but truly beautiful 19th century Roman Baths by Schinkel. After an awe-inspiring and exhausting day, we only saw about a quarter of what is on offer here in Potsdam. We’ll have make another trip back to soak up some more Prussian grandeur.

Of interest

On Sunday we took a walking tour of downtown. It was an incredible insight into Berlin’s history. We saw Checkpoint Charlie, remnants of the Wall, the Federal Chancellor’s Office designed by Albert Speer, the Holocaust Memorial designed by Peter Eisenman, the Brandenburg Gate and others.

Later that afternoon we explored Mauerpark flea markets, the biggest in Berlin. It had everything you could possibly imagine including, yep, Karaoke? Seems to be quite the crowd pleaser over here…

Orientation

Berlin has been an incredible contrast in culture to that of Boston. After having settled in to our new accommodations, we spent the first week getting familiar with our new lives here. Our studio and class rooms are in a very nice district of Berlin, Schöneberg. The mornings were taken up by orientation sessions at the studio while the afternoons were spent on various field trips. The Ubahn is a very comprehensive public transport system and took us all around the city.

Our first stop was Schloss Charlottenburg in West Berlin. It is an 18th century palace that has experienced a tremendously varied history. The baroque palace was commissioned by Sophie Charlotte and designed by Johann Arnold Nering. It has witnessed numerous historically prominent residence, built renovations and suffered destruction through the war.

The next afternoon was spent visiting the Senate Department for Urban Development and Environment in East Berlin. There we were able to witness a massive 1:500 scale model of Berlin depicting the vast array of new construction. Afterwards we passed Franziskaner Klosterkirche, a Franciscan monastery ruin from the 13th century. It is one of a few remaining examples here in Berlin from that era. The Fernsehturm is in former East Berlin and was built in 1969. It offers a very different experience of the city landscape and we were treated to a spectacular view.

The week was concluded with a studio site visit. Our sites are in Wedding district of North Berlin. It is a poorer part of town and again gave us a different perspective on the way of life here. One of the site conditions includes the neighboring ExRotaprint Company. It pioneered the production of offset printers and ran from 1904 to 1989. Rotaprint enjoyed many successful decades after the war until it was forced out of business with the invention of the personal printer.

Of interest

Here is a sample of pictures taken within the first week in Berlin. I stumbled across Potsdamer Platz on my way home one day and discovered Renzo Piano’s Imax Theatre. I learnt of Klunkerkranich by way of unlike.net/berlin. It’s a rooftop bar in the Neukölln district and is hidden on top of a shopping complex car park with amazing 360° views of the city. My host family took me to Schlachtensee, a lake only 20 minutes south of our apartment. We went for a walk, swam and soaked up the sunshine with many of the locals there. I was surprised to be able to experience such a large natural environment within Berlin’s city limits.