DAY 30: Berlin, Germany

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The nostalgic architecture:

There are kids who play with Legos, and there are kids who build with them. I think if there is one super cliche about architects, it is that we all share a love of building with Legos. After much anticipation, a few of us ventured to Legoland Berlin at the Sony Center, which was no disappointment. It had everything in Berlin, from a lit up Reichstag and Brandeburg Gate, to actual Lego people knocking down the Berlin Wall. It was a much brighter Berlin than I’ve grown to know.

Immediately, I was brought back to the time when Daniel and I would play Legos for what seemed like hours. He would control all of the roads and vehicles, while I would design the flower shops, hospitals, houses, pizza places…

Even when we all went to lunch after walking through the miniature cities, we sat playing with the few bricks someone had bought as souvenirs; each of us creating something new despite there only being eight or so pieces. I think a line in the sand is in fact drawn very early for us as children; we choose the toys and games that interest us for reasons we don’t know or realize, and later in life find these same methods of playing or thinking in our ‘real’ lives.

And for me, it brought back every dream I’d ever dreamt of building a city of my own when I was a kid.

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DAY 29: Berlin, Germany

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The tasty architecture:

A dark chocolate cappucino with whipped cream. This was the treat I got at the Ritter Sport cafe and store. I was expecting to see a chocolate factory, but instead the store near Friedrichstrasse had a brief history of the German chocolate company and an absolutely tasty cafe. There was even a chance for customers to pick their own chocolate and watch as the chocolatiers made them into customized bars.

The cafe looked as tasty as the treats. It was a moment of practical interior design, where in any other place, nothing would have fit. But with the chocolate brown walls and comfortable leather furniture, I wanted nothing but sweets in the space. The feature wall leading up to the cafe was covered in these glossy colored accent panels, which on  the ceiling were turned into softly lit fixtures. They resembled the variety of chocolate types, all packed in pop of color square wrappings.

At the pick-your-own chocolate station, I took my best guess at flavors and made small goodie bags for mom and dad. I’d say a return trip to Ritter Sport, and another cappuccino, is necessary while I’m still in Berlin.

DAY 28: Berlin, Germany

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The conceptual architecture:

I anticipated a trip to the Judisches Museum since before arriving in Berlin. As an architecture student, Daniel Liebeskind’s work is influential. And given the importance of the Museum’s criteria, it’s assumed that a tourist must visit this infamous place of culture.

A part of my anticipation was fear; I’d heard that the museum is almost meant to make the visitor uncomfortable. It weighs heavily on the fact that the Jews were segregated and forgotten about in German communities. I get claustrophobic. However, the most prominent feeling one gets as they circulate the museum is a feeling of being suppressed, almost buried alive as the spaces are narrow in width and tall in height. All that appears from above is a slit of light. This feeling I find very successful in Liebeskind’s design. The spaces he left empty, in representation of the lives that were being confined, were most effective.

The work is described as “Between the Lines,” a concept that perhaps overtakes the building in this instance. It was incredible to see that everything from the slash-like windows to HVAC vents, to lighting channels and doorways were part of this total conceptual design. But the exhibit spaces were crammed, doomed to display the historical pieces on sort of these goofy acrylic surfaces on the structure. For the amount of people who visit the museum, there wasn’t enough space for visitors to both absorb the pieces and circulate to other exhibits. In our two hour tour, we only stopped at four areas.

The building itself stands alone in exhibiting the emotions of the Holocaust victims. I find it more effective as a memorial, like Eisenmann’s, than a museum.

DAY 27: Kopenick, Germany

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The finishes of architecture:

Continuing our study of libraries for class, Joachim brought us to two more libraries. The first, and pictured, is the Library and Information Center, the Erwin Schrodinger Zentrum, at the Humboldt University Berlin. The second was the District Library in Berlin Kopenick.

I found both to be some of the better architecture that we’ve seen in Berlin. Each managed to continue the Berlin geometry while making a more inviting atmosphere. At the University Library, I was especially interested in the choice of materials. Though an industrial space, originally added onto and renovated into the library, the open reading room felt comfortable. We toured with one of the librarians, who noted that much of the concrete surfaces had been covered with wood to keep the library quiet. Her criticism was that the library was in fact struggling with issues of sound. The space was quite expansive and the industrial trusses provided a monumental height in the center of the room.

The combination of painted beams and trusses softened the factory-like quality of the space. The red structural pieces were part of the original, while the green structure was added. The same goes for the lighting fixtures which, though industrial, supported the aesthetic of the project while providing soft light.

And most exciting were the library’s robots that transport boxes of books around the huge space so that the librarians don’t have to.

DAY 26: Berlin, Germany

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The temporal architecture:

I had never experienced so many different types of snow until I came to Berlin. Today, it ranged from sleet, to tiny pellets of hard snow raining down on Victoria and I as we went for cheesecake, and ending with the fluffiest and largest flakes I had ever seen. And just when I think Spring is peeking through, I find more and more freshly fallen snow outside my window. This shot is from the balconyat our apartment.

This uncertainty in weather is something I really love, however, especially what it does to architecture. Every architect should plan for the changes that will take place at the site over time. After all, humans are forever changing and the weather is an excellent marker of time. A piece of architecture should reflect the years its aged, just as we do with wrinkles and gray hair. Not to say that it should fall into disrepair, but it should utilize the effects the weather can have on different materials. Concrete has so much more depth when it has been rained upon. The green that copper turns to over time is quite magnificent and the weathered stains of Cor-ten steel ever more so.

And when the snow finally does stop falling, a whole new set of changes will surround Berlin.

DAY 25: Berlin, Germany

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The comfortable architecture:

I woke up this morning, back in Berlin, determined to hold on to the feeling of warmth that I had in Barcelona. Since a literal feeling of warmth wasn’t possible, being that the temperature was slightly above freezing, I was at least in search of comfort. I set out at 10 in the morning hoping to find something interesting to regain my enjoyment in Berlin.

I walked past the Markisches Museum train stop to the Spree River and over a bridge. In between museum island and my apartment, I found a small series of shops and coffee houses that seemed quite lovely for a Monday morning. Even though there were tourist magnets and post cards, the spot was hidden enough that only a few people were browsing. For a moment I found a comfort in my discovery. These experiences are what architecuture is all about; it is human centered even down to the emotions. Architecture is a comfort for us.

I made a mental note to come back, especially on a day when it wasn’t slightly hailing like today, and browse the shops.

DAY 24: Barcelona, Spain

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The mystifying architecture:

I’m not religious in the least. But cathedrals are gorgeous and they are what I believe in. At the Barcelona Cathedral, also by Gaudi, I was surprised at my feelings upon entering. A combination of awe, love, the feeling of being so small in such a large space, can only be qualified as mystification. How is it that these spaces can be so emotionally over powering. I’m surprised I didn’t walk into anyone, considering my gaze was unfailingly upward.

I liked the Barcelona Cathedral. It’s simpler than the Sagrada Familia, which makes it more personal. The dark stone was lit from natural sunlight and candles. I first saw it at night, when me and Victoria happened to turn the corner and find ourselves in the plaza it stands in. In typical Gaudi fashion, I was inspired by its patterns and textures of stone and tile.

I walked out to a plaza of merchants and people playing music. We walked the Old City region of Barcelona down to the water where, after touching the Mediterranean Sea, we begrudgingly prepared ourselves to head back to Berlin.