Did you know that a popular skate park at the south-eastern end of Tempelhofer Feld was built using the original granite steps that led to the entrance to the Palastder Republik? The steps, made of extra hard and beautifully polished Silesian granite, were already popular with skaters in the early 1990s; they were later given as a gift from Berlin’s Senator for Urban Development to a group of skating aficionados who wanted to build a professional skate-park in Mitte.
Although the original location fell through, it was eventually constructed – partly financed by the Berlin Senate – as Skate-Bahn West on Tempelhofer Feld. In order to give it an authentic city feeling, the skate park was designed to look like the forefront of a museum.
The granite steps were not the only part of Palast der Republik to be put to new use after the original structure was demolished in 2006-2008: Burj-Khalifa in Dubai, currently the tallest structure in the world, contains most of the 25,000 tonnes of recycled Swedish steel from the East Berlin Palast. The girders were melted at a smelting plant in Saxony-Anhalt and sold both to Volkswagen – who still use it to produce their car engines – and a construction firm from Istanbul who provided the steel for the Dubai project.
The 829-metre luxury skyscraper was built around a steel frame with plenty of resistance power and with deeply socialist roots.
Find out more about the fate of East Berlin’s second favourite building (after Fernsehturm) from the first volume of “Notmsparker’s Berlin Companion” available also as an e-book via berlinarium.bigcartel.com
Today’s photo was taken around 1870 by one of Berlin’s best visual chroniclers, F.A.Schwartz, at the time when he himself lived nearby in Friedrichstraße.
The view is practically impossible to match to today’s situation: the photographer stood on the northern bank of the Spree looking towards what is today Planckstraße, a street – built as Prinz-Louis-Ferdinand-Straße, in the filled-in bed of the water canal whose mouth you see in the picture. The then popular inn, the “Hammelkopf”, is visible on the left corner of the canal’s end.
Both the small canal and the inn would disappear soon as the city continued its steady northbound expansion.
Irma Luise was a well-to-do American and an amateur photographer who arrived in West Berlin in July 1953. Her camera, loaded with Kodachrome film, allowed her to capture street scenes so full of deep, saturated colours and so filled with warm July sunlight that looking at them now, in December 2018, you would wish nothing else but to be able to step into the pictures and feel both the thrill and the warmth of the moments she caught on film.
Irma died at the age of 100 and childless – her estate was in the hands of her accountant whose other client saved thousands of her photos and slides from being discarded. You can read more about her and the person who eventually presented her often incredibly good photos to the world on Flashbak website. The page also shows some more of her Berlin images.
Just to give you the taste, however, here are several photos (all by Irma Luise, copyright lies with Found Slides ) I found particularly appealing. Enjoy them!