Figures in the Park – Outdoor Exhibition

One of the first things to attract your attention when you enter the DRK clinical center in Berlin's Westend (Spandauer Damm 130) will probably be the statue right opposite the main entrance.

If you care to take a closer look at the surroundings, you will certainly realize that many other sculptures, namely a total of 33 and predominantly representations of human beings, are distributed throughout the parkland.
Over a period of 5 decades these statues were formed by sculptors like Schriebers, Loth, Szymanski, Klinge, Wilde and Winzer, before they found their home in Berlin's Westend.
On a balmy spring evening (hopefully soon to come) take a walk to explore this extraordinary exhibition. A detailed map with pictures of all the statues can be found here.

The "Große Fevi" (Big Fevi) by Dietrich Klinge (1999) caught my eye when I walked down from the tropical institute to the exit. The sculpture looks like it was made of wood, while in fact it is a bronze casting.


American Memorial takes Form of Public Library


After World War II, all major libraries were located in the eastern part of Berlin, so that the western sectors were left with almost no research libraries. 
At its opening in 1954 the American Memorial Library, a gift from the United States to the people of  Berlin, was the most modern library in Europe. Constructed according to the quintessential American democratic ideal that knowledge and education should be available to all, regardless of social class, this universal library offers a broad spectrum of literature for everyone.

The open library concept where readers could hang out and browse books and magazines at leisure was totally new in Germany. This concept for free "education, information, recreation", the freedom to learn, study, and seek the truth, is also expressed through the building's architecture which conveys a sense of spaciousness and transparency.

The entrance to the library is linear and free of barriers. Once you have entered the vestibule, you can immediately see the library's hall through the glass doors in front of you. 
The location of the library (now protected as a historical site) was carefully selected: Only half a mile away from the border, it was clearly visible in East Berlin. The large neon letters on top of the building which read "Gedenkbibliothek" (= Memorial Library) could be seen from the Friedrichstraße train station, then located in the eastern sector.

Since 1995 the library has been part of Berlin's central and regional library. Among other things it possesses a vast film department (50 000 movies), and even a Black Box, where films are projected on a large screen. In the picture-lending library (Artothek) you can borrow paintings, sculptures and figures. In the music department, concerts are held, and there is even a Piano Room (with one Bechtstein and one Steinway) which visitors can use to practice. The room can be reserved for up to two hours a week.

The American Memorial Library truly is a library for the people. Contrary to most libraries I know, the atmosphere is refreshing and lively. Young people of all nationalities meet up to read and chat, do their homework together, or roam the aisles browsing for literature.

The children's and young adult's library, also located in the building and named "Hallescher Komet" (= Halle's Comet as an allusion to the closest  subway train station Hallesches Tor) is the largest of its kind in Germany.


"In Rixdorf is Musike!" - There is Music in Rixdorf


Right in the center of the big market and pedestrian island on Hermannplatz in the district of Neukölln, we see – if we care to look up – the bronze sculpture of a dancing couple. People also call it "Rixdorfer Tanzpärchen" which means "Dancing couple from Rixdorf", "Rixdorf" being one of Neukölln's old names.

More than 100 years ago, Hermannplatz used to mark the borderline between Berlin and Rixdorf. Rixdorf with all its dancing halls and breweries was a playground for hedonists and the epitome of pleasure, amusement, and debauchery, a place for Berliners to booze up and have fun with easy girls – hence the popular melody "In Rixdorf is Musike".

In January 1912 the name was changed into "Neukölln", as the bad image of Rixdorf hovered all over the place and the local authorities wanted to finally get rid of it.The statue was sculptured by Joachim Schmettau in 1985 for the opening of a garden festival and used to rotate around its own axis twice an hour, but is now standing still.


American Hook Organ finds new Home in German Church

On my way to the America Memorial Library in Kreuzberg, I passed by a stunningly beautiful Gothic Revival style brick church with multiple svelte towers springing up into the sky: The Church of the Holy Cross.


According to the wishes of Emporer William I. of Prussia this monumental church was designed by Johannes Otzen, the son of an organist and village school teacher, and built from 1885 to 1888. Being too modest for the Emporer's taste, the unpretentious design priorly offered by architect Blankenstein had been rejected in favor of the four times as costly representative edifice. 

The church consists of a nave and a transept with a crossing tower which in about 20 meters height is topped by a dome.

World War II left the church in ruins after fire bombs had hit the building. In the years following 1945, pastor and parish were strongly opposed to governmental demolition plans and managed to enforce the building's reconstruction. The interior was kept much simpler from then on: The hitherto decorative brick work was plastered over, giving the space a somewhat sterile feeling.

In 1995 the structure was extensively renovated for prospective clerical and secular utilization. Apropos: As soon as I entered the churches vestibule, I was greeted by a vile stench and when I turned my head I saw a homeless man peacefully snoring in a corner surrounded by all his worldly possessions.

In 2001 the church received a unique instrument: The Organ op. 553 built in 1870 by Hook Bros., Boston. It is the only 19th-Century American organ in Germany. This gigantic instrument possesses 2370 pipes and is a genuine instrument of high romanticism.

Hook Organ
Church of the Holy Cross – Homepage


Old National Gallery

Pierers Universal-Lexikon, 1891 

Situated on Berlin's Museum Island (UNESCO designated World Heritage Site) the Old National Gallery harbors artwork treasures of the 19th century, namely Classical, Romantic, Biedermeier, Impressionist and early Modernist masterpieces (Friedrich, Schinkel, Monet, Manet, Renoir, Cézanne, Rodin, Liebermann, Corinth, Spitzweg etc). Currently the gallery is exhibiting the "Amalfi Sketchbook" by Carl Blechen.

The basis of the current collection was established in 1861, when the Swedish banker J. H. W. Wagener bequeathed 262 paintings to the Prussian king William I. Until the opening of the Old National Gallery in spring 1876, the collection was housed in the Academy of Arts.

The building itself (designed by Stüler, constructed by Strack) is shaped like a Corinthian temple (with attached apse) set on a high ashlar base with embedded rectangular windows. An impressive flight of steps leads the visitor up to the main entrance, through an open hall of pillars, while the bronze equestrian statue of the museum's founder, Frederick William IV, on the middle landing of the stairway is securing the building's front.

Heavily damaged during the air raids of World War II, the building was partly reopened in 1949. However, reconstruction work continued until 1969.

More photos
Homepage of the Gallery