Thursday, August 21, 2014

Berlin; Railways and the Wall

During my stay in Berlin I really enjoyed using both the U-Bahn and S-Bahn. The S-Bahn is basically an urban express railway system within (but not limited to) the city of Berlin. What fascinated me was how this infrastructure was well incorporated to the surrounding environment and didn't seem to create barriers within the city. Because it is a problem I have dealt with in France and still do in Montreal, I thought I should share this experience with you guys.

However this post will not concern only the integration of railways within the city but also my little visit to the famous Wall of Berlin and, while we're there, a few graffiti artworks I had the chance to snap a picture of.

Most S-Bahn and U-Bahn stations are accessible through well designed and well maintained buildings, like the Zoologischer Garten station, or the Alexanderplatz station.

Just like the project Im Viadukt in Zürich, the spaces beneath the railways are actually used and occupied by commercial activities such as restaurants, stores, etc. We then don't see the railways as barriers and getting around them becomes an actual pleasurable activity rather than an annoying walk.

Having commercial activities on both sides of the railways helps connecting neighborhoods together because they conceal the separation of a part of the city from another.

Sometimes the railways are concealed under nice pedestrian passageways, like this one near Checkpoint Charlie. Since it goes over a bridge, adding store beneath will only cause infrastructure problems and hide the view on the river.

The S-Bahn system is far from being a light rail system like the trams. It's actually an important infrastructure that takes a lot of space in the city.

As you can see, not only is it mostly elevated, it also goes through quiet residential areas.

And because I'm a fervent urban art enthusiast, I couldn't help it but notice that what would have been a blind facade was decorated and would make the sight more pleasurable and less gloomy. Though it seems like official work done for or by an insurance company, I believe that well done street arts should not be seen as an act of vandalism but as a way to liven up a neighborhood and add more life to what we call blind facades.

Not exactly street art, but the way the balconies were painted sort of reminded me of Le Corbusier's Cité Radieuse. Even if the choice of colors wasn't exactly the best (it's the same pastel colors you'd choose for a baby's bedroom) that building certainly looked more lively than the one on its right.

And while we're on the topic of street art, I have to show you a few pictures of the Berliner Mauer. While one side mostly has actual spray paint art and tags, the other side features artworks made by artists from all around the world.

Without showing the whole wall, here are some pictures of inspiring or interesting pieces of art. The part that saddened me about this initiative is that, obviously, it makes people want to tag over, therefore the artists are sometimes asked to come back in order to salvage what they can.

This one has changed a lot over time because of the tags, but it has been featured on many postcards and in art books.

This one is a personal favorite because it invites people to directly interact with it.

Unfortunately it's also covered in too many tags.

Who the heck is this Marc Neo SG?

And so I'm going to finish off this post with a favorite for many, the famous Brotherhood Kiss between Erich Honecker and Leonid Brezhnev, also known as Mein Gott hilf mir, diese tödliche Liebe zu überleben or My God, help me survive this deadly love.

Until next time!

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