Berlin Part 1

It was Monday, March 23; a day that could not have come soon enough.  Since the beginning of the semester, we had all been anxiously awaiting our departure for Berlin.  Standing in our way, however, was a one week charrette with Roma Tre University.  Monday, March 23 was not just a departure day—it was also a review day.  Thankfully, we survived review day (that much you have probably already assumed, given that you are reading this blog.)

Eventually, we found our way to the Fiumicino Airport, and boarded our EasyJet plane to Berlin.  For those of you who don’t know, EasyJet is cheap; but don’t expect to be comfortable.  Our wonderful plane landed around 8:30pm.  By the time we checked in at the hotel, it was too late to do anything, except venture into the restaurant downstairs and experience some excellent German food and drink (and by drink, we mean beer.)

Tuesday morning, we once again immersed ourselves in our education.  Our usual professors, Sandro Francetti, Marina Kavalirek, and Sophia Gruzdys, were all present.  However, we were fortunate to have two more: visiting professor Miriam Gusevich, and our favorite Dean, Randy Ott.  The latter we would meet up with on Wednesday night.

We started the morning with a nice walk north, past Karl Schinkel’s Konzerthaus, then east along the river to Berlin’s City Model Exhibit.  There we met up with Ticket B’s Co-Founder, Thomas Krüger, who would show us around Berlin for the morning.  He walked us past many David Chipperfield projects, then went on to describe them in greater detail as we sat on the steps of the Altes Museum.

Thomas Krüger sharing his knowledge with us at the City Model Exhibit

Altes Museum

After seeing the interior of the Altes, we walked around back to Chipperfield’s Neues Museum.  Here, we witnessed how an architect can restore ruins in a way that compliments preexisting architecture.  Chipperfield kept emphasis on the preexisting, rather than the new, by using bare, quiet material.

Neues Museum

Lunch took place at an Eastern Asian Restaurant called Jolly.  The food was served family style, and joyfully passed around the table via a large, central turntable.  The fried bananas and ice cream were delicious!

After lunch, we stopped at the Jacob-und-Wilhelm-Grimm-Zentrum Library.  Unfortunately, we were not able to enter the building without a membership.  However, that did not seem to disappoint many, because the coffee shop across the street became the perfect place to admire the façade.  Not to mention, the much-needed caffeine.  After coffee, we walked over to the German History Museum, by I.M. Pei.  At first, the façade resembled that of the National Gallery of Art East Building, in Washington D.C.  However, when we turned the corner, we found ourselves faced with a new, brilliant, I.M. Pei façade.  Inside the museum, we sketched out perspective views of the elaborate spaces.  It was fun, and afterwards we saw everyone’s sketches on one of Sophia’s famous “sketching trains.”

German History Museum

Wednesday Morning we left for the Reichstag Bundestag.  Very casually, our professor Marina led us through the Brandenburg Gate to arrive the Reichstag.  She didn’t mention anything about the architecture, because she knew we would be returning to it later.  Many were confused as to what it was we just passed, and why nothing was said of such a great looking structure.  After talking in front of the Reichstag about its history, and the history of Berlin, we journeyed over to a nearby building known as the Bundestagbauten, where we sat down to sketch some more.   This sketch, a one-point perspective, was one almost everyone enjoyed.  It was awesome.

Train Station
Following that, if my memory serves us correctly, we ventured into Berlin’s giant train station, the Hauptbahnhof.  It was a massive piece of contemporary architecture.  Glass and steel were the primary building materials.  If one word could be used to describe this station, it would be “structure.”

After this, we went to the Topography of Terrors Museum.  This museum was designed to commemorate the horrors of Nazi Germany, and how the regime, led by Hitler and his goons, terrorized, discriminated against, and finally exterminated minority groups.  It was truly a somber, but important, experience.  Next to the museum was a piece of the Berlin Wall; the wall that literally divided a city, but symbolically divided a nation.

Topography of Terrors

Nearby was a giant hot air balloon, which is how we got this great picture of the museum!
Later that night, we finally met up with Dean Ott in front of the Reichstag.  The Reichstag was built in 1894 after the Reunification of Germany.  It was in use until the end of World War II, where its original dome was destroyed along with the rest of Berlin.  Afterwards, it was abandoned until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.  Since then, it has been renovated.

Brandenburg Gate
As a class, we walked to the top of Norman Foster’s new Dome.  The view of Berlin was a lot better from the dome than we had originally envisioned.  From within the dome were two ramps that led to the top of a gigantic structure – almost like a cone.  The cone pierced the center of space, and at that point one could look directly into the Reichstag – symbolic of the transparency of Germany’s new government.  Visiting professor Miriam Gusevich commented the entire structure was actually suspended within the dome.

Dome of the Reichstag

The after party was the best part, though.  Everyone - students and faculty - went to dinner at a local place called Hofbräuhaus Berlin.  It was essentially two giant tables, where everyone had delicious German food and beer.  

-Kyle Adair & John Rahill