Posts Tagged '1914'

worm, chrysalis and butterfly…

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This is the butterfly…a bedroom full of light, the bed facing an enormous double window overlooking the chestnut trees, new oak floor and travertino paint for the walls.

cimg0127…the necessary chrysalis…

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And this was the ugly worm we bought…poor thing it was ugly but with lots of potential! This is the same room as above, here as a post-war kitchen.

Before the war each floor of this Altbau had just 2 enormous buergerlich flats, with chambres de bonne and the like. Each flat was then divided in 3 flats. Our worm – pardon, our Flat – didn’t have any bedroom, just a big living room with a bow-window, a kitchen and bath both with windows, and a roomy dark corridor for a total of 54sqm.

We torn the wall down (even if we never liked Reagan, we did as he said 😀 ) and transformed the neighbouring bath and kitchen into a nice bedroom with a superb double window.

So now The Flat has a double bedroom and, thanks to our architect, the living room goes back to its pre-war destination. (Er…what about kitchen and bathroom then?!)

inflation: if it’s not behind you…it’s ahead

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109339958 Today in the office I had a nice discussion about the risks of the come-back of double-digit inflation down the road in a couple of years or so, something that we kids of the 70s recall when shopping with our mums at the supermarket.

To me back then it seemed NORMAL that prices of pasta Barilla and Nutella would change every week or so, I did try to desperately memorize the prices but it wasn’t worth the effort. We had then mini-assegni, funny wannabe banknotes-in-lieu-of-coins, something I hear is back in fashion in the US these days. Early 90s, freshly graduated, my first image of London was one of building societies changing daily the interest rates on the window-displays, and I clearly remember that it was in the double-digits (and starting with a “2”).

The discussion ended with “it was all the fault of the Versailles Treaty, it paved the way for disaster for poor Weimar young and sexy Republik…then things went sour”.

Or, as in Tom Tykwer’s “The International”, big debts are big crow bars….

Even if I do not particularly like the new Herald Tribune web edition layout, I do looove the fact that now when using the SEARCH function you can dig deep and directly in the PDFedded archives of the New York Times… there are very interesting articles for useful meditation…which remind me of hedge funds buying single-handedly entire blocks in East Berlin from the helicopter only a few quarters ago, or individual investors buying flats on the basis of the Expose’ and looking up the property only on Google Earth, and not by stepping in the Kiez and walking up the Treppe of the Vorderhaus.

There were neither copters, nor Google Earth back in 1922, indeed turbolent times and postdemocracies are back in Europe…and Angela may be quite right in fearing the comeback of those zeroes by the kilo.

sleeping in

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Last weekend, first night in the flat! The flat needs still a bit of work on the storage units, so there are still tools and paint around the living room. But bathroom, kitchen and bedroom were up and running. And anyway, no hotel or B&B had been booked…so I would have slept in the flat no matter the situation.

Tests were ok and with flying colours…

Opting for a big shower (2m x 1m) rather for a bathtube was definitely a good idea, especially with the rainshower set. The snowy and icy cold weather in Berlin provided the ideal test also for the heating system below the dark anthracite grey tiles of the bathroom. It’s a pleasure to walk barefoot on something very similar to stones warmed by the sun. Our personal zero tolerance for bathroom furniture – except from a built-in small cabinet – also gives to the bathroom a nice mineral feeling, quite warm thank you to the mixed use of mosaic and milky-white tiles on the walls.

The kitchen test was limited to a good cup of tea as I had not bought groceries…in the picture you see a gorgeous constructivist-looking IKEA teapot. I bought the bold zinc letters forming our logo (RC)^2 last summer in NYC at the Anthropology store on Madison. Oh boy, at that time we just had the keys of the flat and the project was just a sketch done on the table of our favorite roman pizzeria while brainstorming with our architect. I can’t believe that sketch is now reality…

The living room hosted still a bit of work in progress, but it’s the only room which retained its original destination, albeit slightly modified by the disguised presence of the kitchen and by a mimetic mezzanine. The Rundbogenfenster – sort of bow window – was refurbished but untouched. A kind neighbor who lived 1945 in this Altbau building said that we are lucky to be on the front side of the building, which was not damaged by bombs and this explains the fact that these windows are only present on one side of the house. As the oak original flooring and ancient bamboo internal ceiling structure.

The bedroom is fully furnished even if curtains are badly needed in order to guarantee some quiet sleep, the 2 windows are indeed big and flood the room with light.

My brother and I bought a small radio-alarm clock in order to have some familiar noises around us. We were surprised by how silent the flat is, good 1900’s isolation, I suppose. We could hear steps on the kerb covered with icy snow during the night.

I hope that on the next trip MeinMann will be able to join me to Berlin, to see the result! He found this flat during our second flat-hunting campaign, back in november 2007, we signed the contract together in december 2007 and since June 2008 – when we finally got the keys – it’s been my task to commute monthly to Berlin.

I am now on first-name terms with a few cafe-keepers and shop assistants, I’ve found out what I can get at Aldi and what deserves a trip to Kaiser, learned the ropes on the comprehensive pillow offer in Germany, become an expert in return Blitztrips to IKEA in under 1 hour…the Kiez is my oyster.

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I am looking forward to enjoying together the Gemuetlichkeit* of our flat, after all this busy-bee activity and all the research and big and small decisions. We deserve at last some farniente in Schoeneberg, going to the market in Winterfeldplatz, buying a Bund of flowers or listening to a nice record at home…

*=something more than cozy…warm, intimate, comfortable, good to stay in…something that cats master very well as you can imagine

It’s sooo 1914!

At the bookstore in the Hauptbahnhof we discovered an exceptional Berlin guide: Berlin – The Architecture Guide, by Verlagshaus Braun. It’s a pillar of our bookshelf in Berlin.

Thanks to this book we were able to understand how Berlin went from trading post to capital at the end of 1700, which development logic drove the decision-makers and how the single villages “melted” into Berlin, decade after decade. We were also in the position to understand better to which architectural fashion our Altbau belongs.

The most interesting chapter for me is the Historicism period, from 1876 to 1918, when Berlin became the political, economic and cultural centre of Germany. The most representative architect of the time is Ludwig Hoffmann, who built in Berlin more than Schinkel and whose motto was:
“All those of us who have dedicated our lives to building are unified by the same goal: we wish to give form to the yearning for beauty”. Cool, uh?

The chapter also explains the genesis of the typical berlinese tenement building and helps a lot in understanding the structure of the majority of Berlin’s flats, with their inter-connecting yards.

“Wilmersdorf and Schoeneberg also saw breathtaking growth in new street networks, interspersed with decorative squares (Viktoria-Louise Platz)”.  In the same period also the Reichstag and the Berliner Dom were built. “The drive for the decorative saw a blooming in the city (…) These novelties are often described as a preliminary stage for the Modernist era of the 1920s”.

This book is a must-have for flat-hunters and urban trekkers, as it spans from baroque to plattenbauten, from interbau to Renzo Piano…

Timeline

We could have been more efficient. Still, we needed to rely upon holidays, availability of flights at reasonable prices and sometimes things just take time to fall in place.

At the moment, we are beyond the 50% threshold in our refurbishment process. We’re thinking stuccos, painting and taps. Next week we’ll see. So let’s summarize how long it took us to get here.

Continue reading ‘Timeline’


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