Berlin 1.0

Despite spending a lot of time in Germany over the years, I’ve never properly experienced Berlin. So when I got the opportunity to visit the German capital for a few days on my way back to Canada, I jumped at the opportunity.

Thanks to my incredible colleagues at Mapping UkraineETH Zürich and the Swiss Network for Ukraine, I had a great excuse to explore Berlin.

The Golden ARCH+

The foremost architecture magazine in the world is ARCH+, and it’s currently sponsoring a three-month exhibition combining art, design and architecture called The Great Repair – Politics for the Repair SocietyThe Great Repair is an oxymoron. The title captures the convergence of two seemingly contradictory principles: the revolutionary ambition for systemic change and the evolutionary act of repair. Despite the justified (postmodern) scepticism toward revolution as a concept of rupture, we must not abandon our aspiration to bring about profound transformation.

The 3 Rs

To sum up the Great Repair, think of it as Reduce, Reuse and Recycle combined with architecture, design and philosophy. There were technical exhibits like 3D building Lidarscanning. There were more philosophical exhibits like how to design an impactful yet dignified memorial. But also an exhibit encouraging people to sign a global petition that all new construction should reduce, reuse and recycle as much of any existing structure as possible.

My Peace Coalition colleagues Jonathan & Basil from Mapping Ukraine demonstrated an impressive prototype of their 4D map of the war in Ukraine. Click through layer after layer to display things like active front line conflicts, war crimes, environmental and munition contamination, and damaged property & infrastructure. On a second screen there’s a video montage of interviews with leading global architects, urban planners, designers, diplomats and even humanitarians like me.

It was great to finally see a group of my Peace Coalition colleagues working together to create such an informational yet compelling presentation focused on not just the rebuilding of Ukraine, but the renewal of Ukraine as a prosperous Western, European nation. 

The Great Repair runs from October 14, 2023 to January 14, 2024 at the Akademie der Künste (Academy of Arts) and is well worth a visit if you’re in Berlin. I was lucky to receive an invitation to attend the spectacular opening night reception. 

No Room at the Bar

The exhibit hall didn’t actually open until 8 pm so we grabbed drinks and talked about art and architecture. We were amazed to watch the hall swell with attendees waiting in three, huge well-mannered queues. At one point, I swear there must have been over 1000 people packing this hall in 3 big line ups that never seemed to move, it turns out it was 1400 people!

Being from North America, I’ve always found Europeans more culturally aware and Berliners are a perfect example. The Great Repair is an eclectic topic displayed in an esoteric manner, yet 1500 Berliners took time out of their Friday night to attend the grand opening. I don’t think you could get more than fifty folks to show up at an event like this in Vancouver, unless you offered free booze.

People stood in line, ambled through the courtyards drinking wine or beer between sessions while chatting with architects, designers and humanitarians. As a reward for their time and perseverance, the evening ended with a three-hour music set buy a famous Berlin DJ who kept the dance floor pumping long after the exhibit hall closed.

Some say Berlin is the least German city in Germany, and I think I know why. It’s so openly happy to be multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-everything. Berlin, like Kyiv, is a living city full of citizens looking to enjoy the finer things life has to offer. The only difference is that in Berlin there are no air raids, no missiles, and no war. At least there hasn’t been over the last 78 years.

Slava Ukraini!  Heroiam Slava!