Much has been said and written about the Karl-Marx-Allee, East Berlin’s former socialist grand boulevard. This almost two-kilometer-long street runs between the two well-known landmarks of Strausberger Platz and Frankfurter Tor and was known as Stalinalle from 1949 and 1961. It is framed by seven to nine-story residential and office buildings that were built in the German Democratic Republic’s first construction phase between 1952 and 1958. The Stalinallee was the state’s most comprehensive urban architectural achievement of the postwar years.
The visual book documents the aesthetic of the boulevard and where it originates, the Strausberger Platz. It shows, moreover, how well contemporary lifestyles and designs can be integrated into the socialist classicist buildings whose exterior is only insufficiently described by the Soviet expression “gingerbread style.” One can easily detect the Bauhaus, Modernity, and Manhattan as well as the (East) German interpretation of all these styles in the work of the architects Henselmann and Paulick, which also merges antique and modern elements. The book’s selection of photographs of the facades, reliefs, arcades, and mosaics confirm the surprising diversity and value of the construction materials that were used.
CENTRAL BERLIN, DDR limited explores the boulevard as a political statement whose architectural composition evokes the sleek design and elegance of a short future-oriented period loaded with utopian ideas. The book features a historic part that documents its changing landscape and offers explanations. An essay compiles images by East German photo artists that honor the charm and ambient density of the landmarked ensemble.
A highlight of the book is its chapter on design, which documents select furniture and lamps that were used in the buildings, as well as prototypes that never went into production. Free from any misplaced nostalgia for East Germany, CENTRAL BERLIN, DDR limited gives insight into the elegance of high-quality design classics from an area that has been hitherto underrepresented in comparison to what has been written about Western European and American design history.