Soul-Crushing Stalinesque Architecture? Memory Trip, New Hip, & Heritage

June 29, 2007 at 11:24 pm | In architecture, authenticity, berlin, cities, heritage, Stalin_style, style | 6 Comments

For anyone who was certain that all those super-ugly”commie blocks,” built in East Berlin during the height of the German Democratic Republic’s most intense enthrallment to Stalin, would get the chop after the Wall came down, here’s an explanation for why they’re staying: Warum “die Kultbauten am Alexanderplatz” nicht abgerissen werden. It’s a short (under 2 1/2 minutes) video by Maxim Leo, editor at the Berliner Zeitung. He observes that his generation (aged around 30 to late 30s) isn’t eager to tear those buildings down because they are part of his generation’s personal history. As he tells it, those buildings were there before his generation was even born (so he and his cohort feel no personal responsibility for them). But the point is that his generation grew up with them: the buildings were there when his generation was cutting its teeth. Since this is also a demographic that’s obsessive about preserving its youth and youthfulness, it wants to preserve these buildings: they remind Leo and his friends of when they were young, expansive, in control. They flock to the businesses — cafes, restaurants, nightclubs, hotels — in these buildings; they are their patrons.

In German; via

This reminds me of a recent symposium I attended here in Victoria. The topic was “Heritage and Tourism: Compatibility or Conflict?” During one Q&A session, the conversation veered dangerously toward validating only quite old buildings as heritage (here in Victoria — in North America, West of the East Coast — that typically means something from the mid- to late-19th century, maybe the early 20th century, too). But one younger woman spoke up to put forward the viewpoint of her husband, who had grown up in one of those oversized, soul-crushing “commie block” apartments. She pointed out that for him, those buildings represented his memories, his “heritage,” and that — therefore — it’s ridiculous to think of heritage as simply a museum piece, or a style that has been vetted & approved. It’s also be about lived-in things that are full of memories and experiences and stories.

Which is kind of what Maxim Leo is saying, I guess.

Theme: Pool by Borja Fernandez.
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