“Berlin-prettier than ever!” beckons the 1947 prop art poster for Soviet East Berlin’s 5-year plan for the rebuilding of social housing and infrastructure following the devastation of the Allies’ bombardment and the Soviet invasion.
Distance provides perspective. Unpacking our mental suitcase from a recent summer holiday in graffitti-bedighted East Berlin, we edit snapshots, positioning them for inevitable comparisons to our own living situation, in our own neighborhood in the Western Addition considering topics of street art, gentrification, bicycles, social housing, memorials and population relocation.
The changes in Berlin have been cataclysmic. A city of 4.5 million in 1939, the population now stands at 3.5 million, 25% un-occupied, uncrowded and affordable. For those with connections to Eastern European immigrants, the absence of a vibrant Jewish culture in Berlin is a palpable loss. The World War and Cold War past is still present in the empty lots, the bullet-pocked plaster, the missing windows, and graffitied squats standing side by side with chic window displays, hot clubs, cool condos and high art.