Thursday, May 28, 2009

Ghosts of Berlin Chapters 3 & 4

The one thing that stuck with me from these chapters was the various kinds of remembering/forgetting that is going on with the historical sites in Berlin. There is a constant want, Ladd seems to suggest, to move away from everything Nazi, and justifiably so, but there are serious questions being raised as to how much can you remove yourself or a city from something that inhabited the same buildings that people need to continue to use. How should they be remembered?

Ladd points out, I think in the introduction, that almost every building built before 1930 has some connection to Nazi Berlin. A good question to ask is if every site even needs to be remembered in some way. The other half of that question is whether any site can be forgotten. In the concept of what we consider a city is something that grown, modernizes, and moves on from it's past, so in this sense, it seems natural that, as Ladd claims, a city is not a museum. On the other hand, it is incredibly important to preserve history and to promote awareness like the kind done through even the most benign plaque or marker of historical significance. But what should plaques celebrate at former sites of Nazism?

The popular response to the terror of Berlin, Ladd writes is to "plant it with greenery or use it for parking, and here [the site of Hitler's bunker] we have both." As sardonic as this statement is, it has been shown throughout the years following WWII and in the unification after the Wall came down. The other way Germans have of forgetting, or moving forward, is a sort of retrospective modernity, where they look to former types of architecture, specifically the architecture of Berlin's modern age (1920s) as the ideal. This does not seem to be the case any more, but it certainly trended towards this in East Berlin immediately after the War. Today, Berlin seems unified with the rest of the world in terms of architectural endeavors, using concrete, steel, glass, etc., which itself is a way of departing from the Nazi ideal of the city and of looking at buildings in terms of their ruin value.

Historically, and justifiably, there has been a vilification of everything associated with the Nazi regime. Architecture, buildings, cityscapes are arguably the most visible, iconic, and unavoidable images of a city, so it is natural that in a departure from Nazi Berlin, the architecture of the city vastly departed as well.


This is one thing I'm really interested in studying once in Berlin; the ways of remembering and forgetting the past through architecture and public space. I'd like to look at historical preservation efforts of certain sites, whichever are most available or known, as well as sites that have been reapportioned for new use. I also hope to look at public monuments and memorials as they affect the cityscape and the process of remembering the "terrors" of a past Germany. I mean, an entire history is essentially vilified. How does that feel to live in the most central city to that history? I am more interested in efforts and in understanding the city on a historical and remembrance on the level of architecture, but I cannot neglect the individual either.

Edge of Heaven

This was my second time watching this film and as such I think I caught a lot more of the cinematic features of the movie rather than trying to follow dialogue and character's connections to each other. I just now made the connection to the title and the final shot, Nejat sitting on the edge of the Black Sea. I could focus on aspects other than plot. It was interesting to see the portrayal of the various types if immigration that occurs. there seemed to be the legal and established immigrant in Ali and his son, then the maybe legal, but still poor Yeter working as a prostitute, and finally the illegal immigration of Ayten. Ironically too, all the main characters end the film in Turkey (or dead in Yeter's case) as a sort of reverse immigration.

The types of prisons and detainment centers was really novel to me, as well as immigration policies. The processes seemed to take a long time, or at least a long time in the film. I remember thinking "It's already been a year?" I'm not sure how this compares to average time for a trial or appeal or application for refugee status is though, so all I have to go off of is my initial reaction.

I wonder what the process is for gaining admittance to the EU. I know that Turkey has for some time been trying to get in, and it seems almost likely, but in the film, they made it seem inevitable. I would like to research this a little more and see how close Turkey is to actually being accepted, how long they've been trying, and more general information on the process itself for gaining admittance.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

On "Emerging Spaces of Neoliberalism" in Istanbul

I found this research more compelling than Asu Aksoy's essay on Istanbul's choice between increasing globalization and developing new politics of openness. While both argue generally the same line, I thought the direct research of the two poles of Istanbul to be a more effective way of communicating the phenomenon.

The polarizing of the city seems to be a tradition that accompanies all major globalizing attempts in cities around the world. In suburbs, especially in the United States, communities are increasingly isolated while in project housing the lower classes are segregated from the rest of the city, their movements restrict to utility.

The most disturbing part of the article was reading the descriptions of the city from the perspective of the residents of Gokturk. Their opinions not only separate themselves from the city, but seem to even vilify the city as a whole to the point that almost anything associated with the city outside of the Kanyon mall or the business districts is somehow a nightmare. It is interesting that social elites tend to hold this perspective in any city where they are isolated from the hustle and bustle of daily inner city life. Additionally, it seems as if Istanbul is behind the times in going through this social segregation. Many of these housing project techniques have been tried before and failed to get rid of crime and other aspects of temporary settlements that cities claim to purge, yet Istanbul persists.

Nonetheless, I feel as if the names in both of these articles could be changed to any major US city and the dates changed to 30-60 years ago and they would be just as true.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Early Research

Here is Brian Ladd speaking at MIT as part of a series hosted by the Department of Urban Studies and Planning about rebuilding New York after September 11th, "The Resilient City: Trauma, Recovery, and Remembrance." Ladd's lecture is titled "Double Restoration: Berlin after 1945." This video is compliments of Lauren. I just watched it and thought I'd add it to my blog as well. This video is compliments of Lauren. I just watched it and thought I'd add it to my blog as well.

Some of the most interesting points I would like to research further:
  • Architectural impovershment in recent years - architects don't know how to go forward so they end up going backwards
  • Selective remembering and forgetting inherent in any reconstruction of a city
  • Historical views of supporters and critics of what Ladd calls Critical Reconstruction

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Berlin For Sale

Actually just the Kaufhaus des Westens department store, continental Europe's largest. Better known as KaDeWe, this 102-year-old establishment stood through both World Wars, capitalized on the Cold War, and is accepting all offers foreign and domestic. It has become as much a representation of Berlin as any, so for many Berliners, the metaphor is fitting.

Here is a link to the LA Times article.




These photos are from the University of Texas at Austin's Berlin Topographies website. Check it out if you have the time. They have an extensive photo archive of major locations in Berlin as well as information about Berlin literature, film, and art.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Fibonacci Tourism

Or two
Really good
Restaurants, sit in
The promenade, imagine who

Like to
Trade places
With, and keep your eyes
Peeled, only don't forget to blink

Way that
Does not look
Too touristy (your
Eyes could take in too much culture

Left outside
So all the good parts
Get consumed by eventual

Way to achieve this
Look is to formulate some kind

To Drink
So that neither your
Eyes nor your stomach acculturate.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Berlin City Maps

While piddling about on Wikipedia, I ran across this awesome website, The Berlin City Map Archive. It has detailed maps of Berlin starting in 1738 and ending in 1989 before the Wall came down. Unfortunately, there is no map after '89 of the unified Berlin, and it's not the most user-friendly map site you've been to. Still, it's pretty damn cool.

Begin with 1738 here.

Or check out the English homepage with links to additional information about the project and author, as well as more Berlin sites.