I forgot to take a picture of the one where I didn’t realize I was in the women’s room because the erratic swoop I thought was peeling paint was, in fact, a “D” for Damen. A woman walked in on me – just washing my hands – and let out a firm but smiling “mm-HM!” which I figured must be quirky Cologne dialect for “Hi!” so naturally I said “Hallo” back, still thinking the bathroom was unisex.
The chicks were at a Japanese restaurant in Berlin.
St. Louis’ Tower Grove Park is said to have the largest intact collection of Victorian-era park pavilions – a dozen or so – outside of London’s Kew Gardens. Also, there is abundant evidence of St. Louis’ once-large German population, long since dispersed and assimilated nearly without a trace. The zinc stag came from Berlin; there are statues of Alexander von Humboldt and Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben (sometimes called “father of the American military” for his essential service in the American Revolution and who was trailed by rumors and public accusations of homosexuality), and others by a German sculptor.
The glass box is VW’s Transparent Factory, 10 minutes from the baroque palaces and churches that most people associate with Dresden and earned it the name ‘Florence on the Elbe’. A literary-philosphical talk show called ‘The Philsophical Quartet’ was sometimes filmed there during its 10-year run, because Germany is the kind of place that has literary-philophical talk shows. To prevent birds from hitting the glass, outdoor loudspeakers play ‘territory taken’ bird sounds.
2. Revolutionary bi-level train station with unusual configuration of terminal tracks in the central hall flanked by raised through-tracks on either side, 1898. Renovations c.2006 by Sir Norman Foster including teflon-fabric roofs which won countless architecture awards yet have had ongoing leak problems.
3-6. Adorable interconnected courtyards with shops and housing known as the Kunsthof. Everyone raves about Berlin’s Hackescher Hoefe but this is great too.
Nearly sixty years of rebuilding erased almost every example of the massive damage Dresden experienced in its much-debated bombing. However, informed locals can identify which buildings have been restored or amended – and in some cases rebuilt from the ground up as historical copies – at various times from 1945 to the present – architectural palimpsests. Everyone should be so lucky as to have a tour guide like my friend Roland who can read the buildings and urban forms like a paleontologist digging through layers of fossils.
These are rare examples of remaining visible damage.
1. Intact ground floor of five-story building c.1910 (now one of the country’s many non-shame-attached sex stores)
2. In almost all cases, new construction has filled in gaps; this is an exception.
3-4. Destroyed church, now a lapidarium where statues, monuments and stone building elements are stored, such as this DDR-era monument.
5. Dormers at the top are post-unification (1990) additions to the original 1920s building. The center section is most likely a signifcant alteration from the 1990s that kept the original 20s stone window surrounds.
The lack of museums covering communist-era East Germany is startling. The few DDR* museums that exist are zero-budget independent shoestring operations such as this one that simply took over a few floors of an unrenovated office building, not even in Dresden itself but in a town just outside it. The government seems to have little interest in documenting East German history. Exceptions include the main German history museum in the little, not-centrally-located town of Bonn (West Germany’s capital until unification) and two small DDR-related museums in Berlin that only opened around 2011-13.
The sinks are not a display. The photo is here to show the curious German (European?) habit of having sinks out in the hallways of office buildings.
*DDR was East Germany, Deutsche Demokratische Republik. West Germany was BRD, Bundesrepublik Deutschland (Federal Republic of Germany)
The topographic survey diary on a long strip of paper was created by Augustus II “The Strong”, Elector of Saxony and later King of Poland, an avid and knowledgable surveyor, vital patron of arts and architecture and supporter of a variety of scientific endeavors.
On the large world clock, only the single large surface rotates, so the hour numerals on each of the 360 dials pass under the hour hands, which hang directly downwards, unmechanized.
This blog covers environmental, architectural and public space topics in Germany that are timely and relevant to these fields but on which there is hardly any information available in English, and in many cases none at all – with occasional digressions into non-Germany-related design topics. (My recreational blog is here.) Richard is an urban ecologist with a Ph.D. (Doktorat) in forest ecosystems. Continue reading “About”