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Berlin and Communist Architecture

Let me tell you(tm), I was put off by Berlin all my life and never had an interest to travel there. Growing up in Belgrade in 1980s we had only two TV channels and somehow both channels did a really good job of rotating WWII movies that made Germans look really bad.

On top of that, I was never impressed by communist-era buildings. I lived in them and was surrounded with them all my life. Never thought much of it. I actually found them ugly, gray and cold looking.

To me, they all looked the same. Huge buildings with a plain facade that is falling, dirty and without any ornaments. Inside, wide stairs and often a red carpet. Buildings with long big hallways that never fail to echo. Behind the doors - huge rooms, a lot of space - which is definitely the trademark of a communist era building.

None of this I thought about until I went to Berlin. It was a four day marathon that didn’t include much sleep but it opened up a whole new world for me. A world where the communist era buildings are celebrated - something completely new for me.

My favorite such building in Berlin is Kino International. A huge movie theater, with lots of space around it, in front of it and inside of it. One huge building – one movie theater. Nothing about it resembles a modern multiplex although another landmark communist era movie theater – Cosmos Cinema – was torn apart and made a modern multiplex. I hope the same doesn’t happen to Kino International.

When you walk up either of the two sets of wide red carpeted stairs you enter a lobby – high ceiling, huge windows, shining grand chandeliers, a bar and furniture that is so typical for a communist era building. Of course, standing ashtrays complete the look.

Here’s an article that talks more about the building and the architectural style of it.

But let me finish by saying that I hope people realize the beauty in this architecture that so many of us, especially the ones who lived it, pass of as ugly and gray. These building are unique, they are part of our history and should be preserved and celebrated.

Lastly, I have to thank our German friend Olivier who showed us around the entire time we were there, whose knowledge about the city is immense and whose patience with our five million questions is forever unmatched.


By danijela on Jan 30, 2004 in