The Berlinische Gallerie (or Museum of Modern Art in Berlin) is housed in a former 1950’s glass factory and opened as a museum in 2004. Whilst the upstairs galleries showcase German art from the late 19th century Wilhelmine era through to the post war art of the 1960’s and ‘70’s, it was the ground floor exhibition ‘Radically Modern’ examining Berlin’s architecture that really grabbed my attention. The show comprises 300 architectural drawings, photographs, models, collages and aerial shots thoughtfully displayed flat on the floor allowing visitors to experience the sensation of seeing the city from above. Beginning in 1950 and taking a loosely chronological approach, it discusses the post-war boom in construction and architectures’ heavy links with politics; most poignant in the construction of the Berlin wall in 1961. Initiated by a deliberate move away from “the megalomaniac planning under the Nazi dictatorship” it looks at subsequent differences between the Easts’ neo-classical style to try and emphasise the confidence of the new state, versus the Wests’ re-appropriation of 1920’s avant-garde styles. Particular points of interest for me were the desire to destroy rather than preserve older buildings, though two key exceptions can be seen in The Reichstag and Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial chapel. I also enjoyed viewing the construction of the Television Tower which continues to dominate the skyline, as well as city planners’ visions for reunification including a 1960’s Berlin as a “city on electronically operated conveyor belts” and a collage of the “Socialist City Model” seeing city dwellers relaxing by a pool in front of their uniform blocks of flats. In many ways it is a relief that architecture is no longer as explicit a political tool, however this exhibition did highlight modern architects’ reluctance for self-expression and to push boundaries creating their own utopian visions, but today seem more driven by economics instead.
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