Thursday, October 30, 2008

Gehen wir nach Berlin 1

August may be the perfect month to enjoy Berlin, considering this year to be the worst weather to have in Berlin. You can easily count your fingers how many times sun shines through the whole day. What a strange summer.

As Germany’s capitol, Berlin is strategically located in the mid Europe, which has an important role in the history of Europe and even the world. Its central location, supported by good transportation lines that connect every corner of the country, has become potential political power across Europe. The combinations of bus lanes, upper ground train (S-Bahn), and underground train (U-Bahn) have proven to be the main artery that holds the life of Berlin for 24 hours. These transportation infrastructures were designed to accommodate up to 10 million citizens, such an ideal scheme for a big city to have, unlike Jakarta that still prefers 4-wheelers roads.

Along with those infrastructures, Berlin is also known for its architectural history and development. Though it may not be too big or as dense as Jakarta, It seems like it is one of the best city reference for every urban planner and architect to visit.

Our journey begins early morning through bus route 100 that accommodates tourist and backpackers to have a glimpse of Berlin’s architectural review on a friendliest budgetJ. It started from the historical Church of Kaiser Wilhelm II that was bombed in WW2. This landmark was planned not to be renovated as remembrance of the horrific WW2 aftermath, thus it was named as Gedächtnis Kirche or the Church of Remembrance. As for the church’s daily activity, a modern octagonal facility was built surround it, that was designed by Egon Eiermann in 1959-1963.

Our journey started toward west along the Kufürstendamm road, one of the city’s artery towards downtown. Kufürstendamm is the ‘central park’ for Berlin that functions as city lungs. This main boulevard is sheltered with big trees on the median, with wide pedestrian walk where cafes extend their domains. Not far from there, we found this modern look office building with sharp glass-panel corner proudly emerges from old and classical style surroundings. It is the Neues Kanzler Eck’s office building that was designed by German-American architect, Helmut Jahnn, and was built in 2002. Along with the pedestrian, this building also provides public venues on its ground level, with cafes and shopping arcades that offers many souvenirs for tourists.

Across the road, we found this cylinder structure that turned out to be a five star resident named Swissotel. This contemporary monolith 5-storey building stands on the intersection of one of the busiest junction in Berlin, where many people walk across the pedestrian to shopping malls and arcades. The curvy facades was covered with exposed vertical aluminum mullions create a unique visual experience, as a contrary to the Eck’s sharp edged building.

The journey continued towards the other way to Zoologischegarten. Similar to the other side, this part of the road also offers many luxurious shopping arcades, executive resident and hotels. One of the interesting building we found was a clothing store Peek&Clopenberg, with simple grid facades yet it was covered with 18 different modules of curving glass panel. This building was designed by local architect, Gottfried Böhm in 1995.

After few more blocks, we continued the tour by bus to another interesting place, Reichstag, one of the famous landmarks in the ‘bear city’, Berlin along with the Brandenburgertor. On our way there, we came across another modern sharp-edged transparent office building, that turned out to be the headquarter of CDU, the current Germany’s Counselor’s (Angela Merkell) party. The transparent atrium with glass-panel facades was set to the outer perimeter as to cover the 7-storey main building. The original concept was a representation of a yellowish ship that sails through the ocean. This fascinating building was designed by Petzinka, Pink & partners and was completed after 2 years of construction in 2000.

Another interesting buildings in the neighborhood are the Embassies, starting from Luxemburg, Malta and Qatar, where they were located in the building compound designed by mid-east architect, Orezi Sayed Mohammed.
Next to them we saw the Malaysia and Mexico Embassies. The Mexican’s was designed with series of concrete columns and copper door entrance as its accent, which has reflected mid-American tropical building character.
Next we have these Scandinavian Embassies, from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. These Embassies were located in a building complex that was masterplanned by Berger+Parkkinen, the Danish architects. The variety of architects involved in the projects has shown a great relationship between Germany and its neighboring countries, especially in architectural context. The complex was related by the presence of water element, as it also reflects their geographical relations to the north sea.

After passing the Embassies, we came at this giant pole structure that lies in the central of urban park, Tiergarten, where our journey with bus route 100 was ended. One of the main attractions in the area is the famous German parliament building, Reichstag. The 19th century Wilhelminian building had been burnt down by Hitler during the WW2, and had been reconstructed with a modern giant glass dome, designed by Sir Norman Foster in 1999. This glass dome has some sort of giant reflectors that maintain constant sunlight through the building, to achieve optimum natural lighting during the day. The dome is actually open to public, where people may see the parliament’s meetings below as well as interesting views outside. An interesting tip for tourist to go inside the Reichstag: please bring along your babies and their strollers, as they will let you in first without long queuing J.
On the northwest of Reichstag we saw the Bundeskanzleramt, the Germany’s white house, where the German Counselor does her duties. The building is actually 4 times bigger than the Whitehouse, and was designed by Axel Schultes.

On the north side we saw another modern structure that is separated by Spree river, which was functioned as the border between former Eastern and Western Germany. Now, the building unifies both sides of the government as well as other states in Germany. This large yet light building with slim columns and lighter wall facades was designed by Stefan Braunsels in 2003.

--August Danang's Log on Berlin trip--