If you go to Potsdamer Platz on a warm sunny day, watch the people moving around, and the structures throw fascinating shadows across the pavements, you’ll find yourself in an endlessly changing world of architecture that not only is made of bricks and mortar, but is seen in the shadows, too.
Berlin is a city that changes, warps, with a life that seems to offer infinite possibilities. For some, it’s a place that is full of wormholes to get caught up in.
Potsdamer Platz is a fascinating observation point during the day time. Those gently shifting shadows that form a variety of shapes and forms across the pavement seem like lay-lines of the Berlin map.
The centre of the city, marked by the old traffic lights and clock that still stands at the edge of Stressemann Strasse. Then, as the sun dips down behind the buildings, and the darkness envelops the streets, the shadows disappear and become overwhelmed by the pools of flooded light from street lamps, car headlights, and simple block-boxy shadows that change the tones as each line of cars gush by on the road. Traffic lights come alive. Your eyes are led along by the map of city lights. Feet follow.
Flashing colours that dominate the eyes with garish primary colours always attract the adventurous souls looking for a break from the mundane world of work and toil.
Potsdamer Platz was once the central staging point for people taking a long journey out of the city. The long straight roads that took a traveller relatively quickly out of the city and into the countryside before they reached their destination, made it the perfect point of departure and arrival. Today, it’s seen as a fascinating place to wander around on foot, to poke about in the shops. Lots of tourist attraction shops with a Berlin Tee Shirt, a hat, beer mat, a mug for every occasion with a “I Heart Berlin”, motif to take home to your village home.
Berlin, like any other major European city began life as a centre of trade. Some historians like to take the religious angle, and believe cities are the outcome of churches being founded, then attracting more and more of the faithful to worship and live in the vicinity. I think Churches fed off the business activities that naturally drew crowds, traders, and hustlers to certain points on the map, cities developed through the necessity to stay close to the real action – making money.
Creative people, artists, writers, and musicians, are the same – they travel and discover things about their world. Money, is often their last thought.
In Berlin, you can find some of the best musicians in the world, playing in the clubs and venues.
You can look along the bookshelves of any bookshop and discover how writers have always found new ways to rediscover Berlin, to write a novel, a book of some sort, about their viewpoint on Berlin and see, that maybe, they did catch that passing trend, or the vibe of the times that Berliners were living and enjoying.
Artists are, by nature, searchers. Good artists will go out and look, seek, and find things of interest to take back to the studio and paint, write about, frame, and sing about. That’s what many Berlin artists do, and when they do this, they meet other creative people who are on a similar track. Two worlds collide and create a new set of ideas, and it’s a little like they fell into a wormhole that takes them on a journey.
As time passes, and I get older, I love to walk through the streets of Berlin and explore everything that I think I’ve seen before. There’s a lot of new buildings that replace old slots, long torn down. Commercial life has got its foot into the door, and is now crossing the threshold of personal life, so we are faced with a constant offer of something to buy. Either an object, or a ticket into a room full of exhibited objects.
Monetization of life itself is just around the corner. But the streets are still free to enter and explore as you wish. That’s always my point in these articles on Berlin Notes. You have a choice to enjoy your city as you see fit. Walk it, look at it, think about how it relates to you, and makes you feel better, or take note of what’s disturbing.
Critical thought about immediate life spaces such as what’s outside our front doors is extremely important, that we know what needs to change.
Berlin offers a lot of change. The landscape is always up for re-thinking, as the years pass. But it shouldn’t be all in the hands of the developer, with the city planners only asking how profitable a new project will turn out to be. Berlin is a people’s city, and that’s pretty unique these days, it should be protected.