"Berlin: City of Corrupted Nostalgia" Walktalk with Dan Borden

August 10, 11:00 - 16:00

This walk will explore how Berlin's architectural form has been shaped by a "corrupted nostalgia" - a hunger for an imagined past that is equal parts beauty and terror - and how Berlin, the city of yearning, shaped the 1970s albums that David Bowie produced here.

The new film Mute (2017) takes place in the Berlin of 2035, described by its director Duncan Jones as a futuristic take on our notorious capital of anarchic liberation and decay. Long-time Berliners tell us that city is already long dead, but who knows how 18 years will transform a metropolis famed for its serial rebirths?

The first part of this walk reveals how Berlin’s history of transformations has been inspired by an often-fantastical yearning to recreate the past, both utopian and nightmarish, in the minds of architects from Karl Friedrich Schinkel and Albert Speer up to the present day. Starting at Alexanderplatz, epicenter of the unfinished capital of Soviet East Germany, we'll visit the reconstructed Imperial Palace and Lustgarten surrounded by Schinkel's neo-Classical masterpieces. After a detour to learn about Bertolt Brecht at his Berliner Ensemble Theater, we'll look at Speer's grandiose scheme to rebuild Berlin as the Nazi's World Capital Germania.

The second part explores how immersion in Cold War Berlin, the concrete remnants of those visions, informed the creation of the “Berlin Trilogy,” three albums by David Bowie - the father of Mute's director Jones. Drawn here by his own yearning for a long-lost Berlin, Bowie immersed himself in the art and architecture of this "place at the end of the world.” From Potsdamer Platz to his recording studio and Schöneberg flat, we revisit the notions presented in the first part, but through the eyes of an artist for whom Berlin meant both artistic liberation and literal salvation.

We will meet at the Weltzeituhr in Alexanderplatz at 11:30 on August 10. It’s a walking excursion where I will present my “lecture” at each location. Important: it will require a few short trips on public transportation. The lunch break will be in the food court of the Mall of Berlin, a related building. It will end at the Neues Ufer bar/cafe on Hauptstrasse in Schöneberg in the late afternoon. 

Suggested Reading: http://www.exberliner.com/features/lifestyle/save-berlin-mittes-broken-heart/

Dan Borden

Dan Borden is an architect and writer whose fascination with Berlin began when he visited as a student in summer 1987. After graduating from Columbia University and working as an architect in New York City for 15 years, he settled in Berlin in 2006.  He has contributed to books on the history of architecture and film. His monthly “Save Berlin” column in Berlin’s English-language magazine Exberliner explores the city’s architectural history and future.