March 17th, 2008

A Legacy with cut roots


Among the inmates of Theresienstadt concentration camp, there was an architect named Alexander Beer. He was one out of a number of Jewish architects that had shaped the look of an era. Some of the buildings can still be found around Berlin, other parts of Germany and Poland, others never made it past the drawing room, nonetheless inspiring new concepts of living and working in a future-oriented world. Thinking about future accomplishments was a luxury only some could afford. For most of Beer’s contemporaries, their careers and lives where ruined long before most of the talents could come to a full bloom on the international market. The national socialist regime that rose to power failed to recognize talent and craftsmanship beyond the narrow confines of their racist thought.

Pentagram, the brilliant design company devoted a publication to this group of Forgotten Architects. With an introduction by Myra Wahrhaftig, author of “German Jewish Architects before and after 1933″, this book has been assembled and designed in Pentagram’s Berlin office, which is also where the book can be ordered from.

March 7th, 2008

A City on Two Wheels


Now with the BVG (the city’s subway, bus and tram authority) on strike and the German Rail owned Berlin speed train system (S-Bahn) heading into the same direction, visitors and citizens alike are forced to evade and make use of their two- or four-wheeled companions. One can bet to be caught up in a gridlock on Potsdamer Strasse heading northbound towards Potsdamer Platz or around Friedrichstrasse. Many commuters switch to their bikes. In fact, Berlin is a great place to find and ride your perfect bike, even when some of the cobblestone streets or car-friendly junctions suggest otherwise.

With five branches across town, Fahrradstation is virtually anywhere you might need it. You are looking to rent a bike to bridge the gap of your missing train connection and beyond? Visit them at Auguststrasse! Can’t remember where you left that old iron donkey you bought for 15 Marks in 1996? Go to their Kreuzberg store and try their Trek-line of bikes.

Little John Bikes
Little John has everything you might need around bycicles – a huge range of different models can be found in Schöneberg on Hauptstrasse, near Kleistpark. Their staff can rightfully be called “qualified”. And really, you can’t miss it when walking or driving by their store… it’s colored in bright magenta and black.

It’s nice to know where your mobile life’s necessities are when cycling down Kurfürstendamm. You’d be happy to find them safe and snug in a kultbag. They have just the right sizes to fit everything into it you might need. And have that certain look to them to be in sync with the local scene.

March 2nd, 2008

Glimpse into Russian Democracy


Democracy isn’t always easy. In the Russian Federation, due to presidential laws, Putin is forced to hand over Kremlin power to his successor, Dimitry Medvedev (”United Russia”, Единая Россия) . On the surface, the 2008 presidential elections appear like any other democratic elections. But in fact, Kremlin opposition are selected dubious characters narrowed down to three other parties. The liberal democratic party has a strong nationalist drive with a choleric leading candidate, and the communist party dreams of re-installing the old soviet regime.

For holders of a Russian Federation passport and related visitors – such as the author of this article – the presidential Election presented a rare opportunity to check out the insides of the Russian Embassy Unter den Linden. Constructed in the early 1950s, it has been a famous example of stalinist neo-classicism later influencing further GDR administrational buildings. Below the red star of the Red Square’s Borovitskaya Tower shining from out of the stained glass in the major hall, voters and visitors crowded to support or defy re-election of “United Russia”. Voters reported that “at least he [Medvedev] has been known as being true to himself.” Is it asking too much to hope that Russia alters its course towards a more liberal, democratic state within Medvedevs term in office?