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Hansaviertel

H intro

 

Ever since that first exhausting but exhilarating week in Berlin, when I was totally absorbed by the city’s recent history, I’ve felt quite ‘heavy’ here. I know I’m weary and have been worried about my daughter, Coco, but it’s more than that. Some kind of connection I’ve made with Berlin’s shocking past? The depressing plight of immigrants here? Or maybe the fact that living in Neukölln we’re surrounded by wannabe hipsters who wouldn’t dare crack a smile.

I’m not sure but I haven’t been able to shake the feeling. So this week I went in search of lightness by exploring a neighbourhood I’d glanced at when we first arrived – Hansaviertel.

While my thing is more about finding beauty in the ordinary, Hansaviertel is actually kind of extraordinary. In short, it’s a small neighbourhood of striking 1950s buildings that West Berlin created to outshine East Berlin.

Some quick facts… Before its current incarnation, it was a densely packed residential area founded in 1874 between the Spree River and the Tiergarten. Almost all of the houses were destroyed in WWII by air raids. Name comes from the area’s connection with Hansa cities of medieval times.

A warning – for those who don’t like the tilt-shift lens effect, there are more this week. Quite a few really. I’ve been enjoying trying to tame the beast – and then just letting it have its head and doing what it will.

Also, there are less diptychs this week and more single images – to do my diptychs I need lots of details to match up with other images – and Hansaviertel, being small and fairly homogenous, doesn’t have that many. (In fact, Berlin in general has been the most challenging city as far as my diptychs go. Maybe another reason for my glumness.)

Anyway, let’s go Hansaviertel!

 

Part 1: Altonaer Straße 3–9

Picture this. It’s after the war. Large chunks of Berlin have been destroyed by bombing. East Berlin is busy building their massive Stalinist showpiece, Stalinallee (later renamed, Karl-Marx-Allee). What’s the West to do? Try and one-up them by inviting a handful of big name architects to design buildings for an international architecture exhibition to be built in an area destroyed by the bombing – the Hansa Quarter, Hansaviertel.

Interbau, as it was called, aimed to produce a “city of tomorrow” with modern apartments set in generous parklands. 50 or so architects, including Oscar Niemeyer from Brazil, Arne Jacobsen from Denmark, Alvar Aalto from Finland and Germany’s Walter Gropius, designed a variety of apartment blocks, ranging from low-rise single dwellings to multi-storey high-rise, as well as a library, cinema, two churches and two entrances to the U-Bahn subway station.

That was 1957-1961. What I love is that today, 5o or so years later, the only thing that’s changed are the trees – they’re bigger now. Everything else is pretty much the same.

So one day last week, after wandering around the incredibly quiet neighbourhood, Coco and I spied three girls playing on the grass at the rear of one of the buildings. Partly to ask permission to photograph them, partly to score Coco an impromptu play-date, I wandered up to the parents sitting nearby.

Turned out the ‘parents’ were Helga, mum of seven year old Juno, and Christian, dad of seven year old Valentina and five year old Emilia. The seven year olds were friends and this was a holiday get together.

Helga explained that she and Juno, together with her husband and son, lived in the building in front of us – one of the Interbau buildings, designed by Fritz Jaenecke and Sten Samuelson from Sweden.

The incredibly friendly and welcoming Helga raced upstairs to grab a few books for me about Hansaviertel – she’s a huge fan and while she only rents in the building, loves living in one of these iconic buildings.

And yes, Coco got to play. For. Hours. On. End.

A most excellent first experience of the “city of tomorrow”.

 

Altonaer Straße 3–9

Altonaer Straße 3–9

 

 

 

 

Helga

Helga

 

 

 

 

the location of their apartment block - pre-WWII and now

the location of their apartment block - pre-WWII and now

 

 

 

 

rear view - 1957 vs 2012

rear view - 1957 vs 2012

 

 

 

 

Juno, playing in her 'backyard'

Juno, playing in her 'backyard'

 

 

 

 

Emilia

Emilia hooping it up :: 1

 

 

 

 

yellow flowers in the garden

yellow flowers in the garden

 

 

 

 

Emilia hooping it up

Emilia hooping it up :: 2

 

 

 

 

5 year old fun

5 year old fun

 

 

 

 

7 year old fun

7 year old fun

 

 

 

 

and the 9 year old's idea of fun?

and the 9 year old's idea of fun?

 

 

 

 

joining in the fun

joining in

 

 

 

 

Emilia adds to Juno's drawing

Emilia adds to Juno's drawing

 

 

 

 

and still they play

and still they play

 

 

 

 

tired and tuckered out - time to call it a day

tired and tuckered out - time to call it a day

 

 

 

 

home - heim - same thing

home - heim - same thing

 

 

 

 

Part 2: And beyond

We spent the following days checking out some of the other buildings around the neighbourhood. Sadly for Coco we didn’t come across anymore hula hoops or hula skirts, but we did find some amazing examples of 1950s architecture set amongst masses of green.

 

time has stood still since 1957 in Hansaviertel

time has stood still since 1957 in Hansaviertel

 

 

 

 

before the bombs fell

before the bombs fell

 

 

 

 

70 odd years after the bombs

70 odd years after the bombs

 

 

 

 

then and now - the church

then and now - the church

 

 

 

 

after the bombing - and now

after the bombing - and now

 

 

 

 

by Dane Arne Jacobsen

by Arne Jacobsen

 

 

 

 

we're not in Neukolln anymore Coco

we're not in Neukolln anymore Coco

 

 

 

 

by American Walter Gropius

by Walter Gropius

 

 

 

 

no talking :: 1 - the local library

no talking :: 1 - the local library

 

 

 

 

no talking :: 2 - Dietrich, fomer photographer

no talking :: 2 - Dietrich, fomer photographer

 

 

 

The building that probably catches most people’s eye is the one that sits on enormous ‘V’ shaped feet, designed by Brazilian architect, Oscar Niemeyer. Aside from its ‘floating’ quality, I particularly liked the stairwells, with their different colour tiles and doors and transluscent glass.

 

by Brazilian Oscar Niemeyer

by Brazilian Oscar Niemeyer

 

 

 

 

what I'd do for a comfy bed in there

what I'd do for a comfy bed in there

 

 

 

 

cmulti-storey living :: 1

multi-storey living :: 1

 

 

 

 

multi-storey living :: 2

multi-storey living :: 2

 

 

 

 

Part 3: The mosaic

A large glass tile mosaic adorns one of the walls of the Hansaplatz U-Bahn station, apparently designed by a fella called Fritz Winter in 1958. I loved it so much I hung around it for ages, using it as a backdrop to capture those who passed by.

Like Christoph, who lives in the area and works in computer science; his genes have blessed him with incredibly youthful skin – he’s 55, looks 45 – at the same time as cursing him with muscular dystrophy.

 

Christoph

Christoph

 

 

 

 

Lisa, who works right next to the U-Bahn station at Hansabücherei, the local library. She has a tattoo on her shoulder of some of Lady Gaga’s lyrics from the song, ‘Born this way’ – “That’s me, exactly.”

 

Lady Gaga on Lisa's shoulder

Lady Gaga on Lisa's shoulder

 

 

 

 

Another Lisa and Ann-Marie, two young girls from an African background who were walking past with their mum and dad. They were in a rush so all I found out about them was they lived in Wedding, just north of Hansaviertel.

 

Lisa and Ann-Marie

Lisa and Ann-Marie

 

 

 

 

Helmut, originally from Austria, now living just outside Berlin. He loves Berlin because “you are free to be who you want to be.”

 

Helmut

Helmut

 

 

 

 

The lovely 74 year old Hanke was riding past on his bike with his seven year old grand-daughter, Jasmin, when I hailed them down. I took their photo – and then, when I discovered Hanke lived in one of the Interbau buildings right behind us, I asked if we could have a look. Not once did they wince.

 

Hanke and Jasmin

Hanke and Jasmin

 

 

 

 

Jasmin

Jasmin

 

 

 

 

Klopstockstrasse 30, by Alvar Aalto

Hanke's home :: 1 - the entrance to Klopstockstrasse 30, by Alvar Aalto

 

 

 

 

Hanke's home :: 2 - rear of building

Hanke's home :: 2 - rear of building

 

 

 

 

Jasmin and her opa on the balcony

Jasmin and her opa on the balcony

 

 

 

 

I didn’t take any pics of Hanke’s apartment mainly because as warm and inviting as it was, it just looked like any regular apartment – you wouldn’t have known it was inside an Alvar Aalto designed building.

Hanke told me he’d been born in the area in 1938 and had lived in the Aalto building for 40 years, since 1972. Imagine the changes he would’ve seen, from pre-war to now. Amazing.

 

That was it for my portraits-in-front-of-mosaic.

Two details of said mosaic…

 

the U-Bahn near the Spree river

the U-Bahn near the Spree river

 

 

 

 

suddenly summer

suddenly summer

 

 

 

 

Speaking of the weather, Berlin’s ‘winter’ disappeared as quickly as it had arrived this week. In its place was hot hot weather without a drop of rain – until yesterday…

 

after the rain

after the rain

 

 

 

 

The Wrap

When Helga first showed me her books with photos of Hansaviertel before the war, I couldn’t believe it. The area looked so 19th century ‘normal’, with rows and rows of densely packed homes and little green. Now it feels so much lighter, like one big park with a few interesting buildings scattered around it. Even if it was all about politics at the time, who cares. It’s now a unique corner of Berlin that seems frozen in time and incredibly serene – until the hula hoops and hula skirts come out to play.

 

 

 

hot, tired, bored - the full catastrophe

hot, tired and bored - the full trifecta

 

 

 

On the ‘home front’

I went in search of lightness this week and found it. As did Coco. She loved tearing around the place with her new found friends. I tried to photograph more of them playing together but kept getting the evil eye – “Mum, it’s a game, we can’t just stop.”

She had such a great time. Which is why I don’t mind sharing the photo above. It was on a different day, when I was hanging around the mosaic waiting for people to walk by. I looked around to see Coco just sitting there, with an expression that just says it all. It’s so unusual to see her looking like that – normally she’s all smiles the moment I point the camera at her. But she was so hot – and tired, and bored – she just sat there. I think that’s when I said, okay, let’s go get some ice cream. Problem(s) solved.

 —

This suburb has been brought to you by Julie Mackenzie

 —

See you next Monday.

 

  1. schnook says:

    Schnook
    I am honoured – fantastic architecture abounds in Berlin and it looks like it was a fun playdate. xxx

  2. Di @ beachtropic says:

    Thank you Louise, enjoying it all immensely, as always.

  3. Catharine says:

    For the record, I love the tilt-shift lens effect. :) Love your blog. I never miss reading any of your posts.

  4. Kristin says:

    What a cool suburb. I lived in Berlin for two years and have never been there. I am glad you wandered that way and that you are finally getting some sun.

  5. Tim says:

    Coco might have been bored but what a cool summer outfit! I managed to miss the story of Hansaviertel completely while I was a Berliner (just knew the subway station and never got out there). Thanks for telling its story.

  6. John Ellis says:

    Great use of the light and such a fascinating insight into the history of this quarter. Why did we never get anything like this built in UK I wonder?

  7. Gretel says:

    What a gem of a place! Thank you!

    PS Coco….you should write a little diary of your travels seen through your eyes as well! Perhaps you are doing this already ;-)

  8. Gay says:

    Hi Louise,
    Am loving this one Louise. Maybe boring for Coco but not for me. Sorry Coco! Classic shot of her. I get that look from Miss M and she is not even out of the country doing amazing things, seeing amazing sights, travelling with an amazing mother. You not me dearest! Anyway back to be post…must be the mid century thing and perhaps the sunshine. I’d happily climb those stairwells, GG

  9. Jackie Nolan says:

    Hi Louise,
    As usual, an amazing insight into the suburbs.
    Just love the Klostockstrasse by architect Alvar
    Aalto and the building by Walter Gropius.So very
    60′s! Also very interesting to see developments
    between pre and post WW11 in the area. Great
    work. JFN

  10. Richard Ure says:

    Thanks for telling us about Hansaviertel. I wish I had learnt this a year ago as we spent a week last July in a small flat in Calvinstrasse just north of Bellevue station. When it comes to the civilised higher density living we need so badly in Sydney, Berlin has much to teach us. Given existing land holdings, I fear we have missed the boat.

  11. Louise says:

    Schnook – How apt, I thought, when I went to my list of supporters and saw that it was your turn this week!
    Di – I was worried about you! Nice to see you’re back.
    Catharine – Oh good, a TS fan. Tricky little thing that it is.
    Kristin – It was amazing when the sun finally came out – we felt like little creatures emerging from the dark!
    Tim – Glad to show you around your town!
    John – It’s a good story isn’t it?
    Gretel – Coco tries but fails! I have to stand over her with a wooden spoon to get her to write about her experiences. Oh well.
    Gay – I love 50s architecture too. I know people who don’t though.
    Jackie – Many thanks! And the odd thing is, this neighbourhood feels so suburban – quiet, green, residential – and yet is in the heart of the city.

  12. http://www.kaylovesvintage says:

    I just got back from Berlina and I could live there.Amazing city

    love your blog

  13. Matahina says:

    Thanks for the great photographs and the story. I am happy you found the Hansaviertel, as I think it is a quite unusual place. There is also a documentary about it, which is great (I think it has English subtitles) http://www.stadtvonmorgen.de/

    I was also quite fascinated when I visited the Hansaviertel a few years ago : http://www.flickr.com/photos/matahina/sets/72157605395581035/

  14. Sarah says:

    Yay, I feel spoilt, like I’ve had too many of your posts in a short time – it’s wonderful! Thank you! I love the photo of Coco – only cause I have had that look, at that age! It’s easy for us to forget that bored/tired/had enough face when you write about it, but the photo sums it up. Such a verdant area, really lovely to see the change! thank you

  15. Wayne says:

    Wish bone…
    Altonaer Straße 3–9

  16. Louise says:

    Kay – Glad I could continue your Berlin experience, in a virtual sense anyway.
    Matahina – I’ll try and check that doco out. It’s a special corner of the world isn’t it?
    Sarah – It was a bit of a 52 Subs ATW fest this last week! Re-the verdant bit, that’s been helped along by all the rain recently – but then apparently Berlin always gets a lot of rain. Also explains the lack of wrinkles on the older people’s faces! The sun doesn’t shine long enough to crease them.
    Wayne – Cryptic comment! Are you referring to those V shape feet that resemble a wishbone? Yeah, I guess they do!

  17. Peter McConnochie says:

    Brilliant…interesting and enjoyable fun!
    I’ve loved the TS since you started using it but I guess I’m more jealous of your 1.2 50mm still :)
    Enjoy the rest of the week!

  18. Katie says:

    How beautiful is that little Jasmin? What a gaze!
    Looked like a suburb that resonated with you this week, Louise. Absolutely lovely.
    (p.s. Coco, just keep your eye on the prize waiting at the end of this journey – American. Dolls.)

  19. Rob Steer says:

    Another beautiful set of images. Very inspiring stuff and well written, I felt completely transported.

  20. Louise says:

    Peter – The TS is seductive and fun but the 50mm 1.2 is a classic – love it.
    Katie – Jasmin reminded me of a young Frida Kahlo, not just because of the monobrow but that gaze you refer to – so intense for one so young!
    Rob – I like to transport! Danke.

  21. Tim M says:

    Great post Louise. Thanks for pointing out this little gem. I have ridden under it countless times but have only got out at Hansaplatz twice. An eye opener. Thank you.

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