NEWS

An unexpected convergence

In no other country in the world is architecture identified with history to such a degree as in Germany. At very few architectural exhibitions is the weight of history so strongly felt as at an exhibition of German architecture. An exhibition on the architecture of East and West Germany from 1949-1989 opened at the Athens Concert Hall yesterday in cooperation with the Goethe Institute and the Greek Architecture Institute. It will run until November 12. Fifteen years after the reunification of Germany, the clock is turned back to the Cold War years when each side was building its ideological identity in many sectors, including architecture. The exhibits comprise photographs, drawings and designs, architectural models and structures especially constructed for the exhibition, divided into five sections: official architecture, culture and religion, private life and free time, education, industry and transport. Painful experiment The exhibition, held by the Institut fur Auslandsbeziehungen (IFA) in Stuttgart, has an experimental nature. Architectural historians Simone Hain and Hartmut Frank, representing two different experiences of life in Germany (the former grew up in the East, the latter in the West), along with coordinator Katrin Peter and their students assumed something that was almost unheard of – that the Federal and Democratic Republics of Germany coexisted for precisely 40 years as absolutely equal states. «We had to either confirm the stereotypes or else re-evaluate what we accept today,» said Hain, her voice betraying a hint of anger. Not because Hain and other East Germans themselves feel less German, but because many of their compatriots and millions of foreigners around the world still treat them as survivors of history’s whim. Inequalities, whether real – as in wages and buying power – or symbolic, are represented in architecture through the mass demolitions of buildings that went up in East Germany during the Cold War. Simone Hain said these demolitions ignored history. For example, the proposed demolition of the Palast der Republik in Berlin, symbol of the East German regime in the heart of the capital, is fraught with complex political and ideological issues. The exhibition neither confirms prejudices nor proposes radical solutions, but allows the visitor to observe similarities and differences over a 40-year history which was – and yet was not – a common history. What is shown is how two different architectural vocabularies developed and yet managed to converge so that what we have now are two versions of a common «disciplined» German model. Germany today In a smaller hall, art critics Efi Andreadi and architect Memos Philippidis have curated a series of projections (on DVD) that present the modern face of architecture in united Germany. Buildings designed for a variety of purposes (including industry, mixed use, sporting venues, train stations) by some of the world’s best architects (such as Zaha Hadid, J. Mayer, Delugan-Meissl, Ingenhoven Architekten) provide examples of the pluralism that prevails in the (very attractive) Germany of 2006.