Around the Back of Karl Marx Allee

by jonnywhitlam

The crumbling facade of Karl Marx Allee is even worse around the back.

Photo number 6 in the run up to the exhibition is a picture I’ve taken fairly recently of the back of the palatial Karl Marx Allee. This street was built between 1952 and 1960. At this time much of Berlin was still in ruin following the end of the second world war, it was politically divided into FRG (Federal Republic of Germany, the West) and the GDR (German Democratic Republic, the East), however it was not yet physically divided by the Berlin Wall.

With the city in such a state of destruction citizens of all kinds were encouraged to help in the reconstruction process. Due to high male casualties in WWII a lot of women all over the city had helped clear the debris, earning the nickname ‘Rubble Women’. After Karl Marx Allee (then ‘Stalin Allee’) was built the apartments in these magnificent buildings were donated to those citizens that had helped the reconstruction effort. In fact, they were given away in a lottery. It was a rare display of kindness and equality displayed by the East German government.

Karl Marx Allee became a defining feature of East Berlin, nicknamed ‘the last Grand Boulevard in Europe’ it became emblematic of the ideology of communism in architectural form. Not just through ‘equal living’ principles, but through the grand style that so many people tell me reminds them of Moscow.

However, nowadays the structure doesn’t really ‘fit in’ to Western society, it’s not so practical. Berlin is a very underpopulated city, having a 6-lane-wide boulevard on the fringes of the city centre isn’t really necessary, in fact with the streets so wide here it can feel like a very strange, empty and cold space. The perceived lack of footfall also means that there are hardly and shops around here, there are no car parking spaces along the sides, it almost feels as if people are not encouraged to be here. As such, the buildings themselves are in a fairly poor state, tiles are falling off, there’s an incredibly dirty feel around the whole thing. Should  you go around the back it becomes even more pronounced. It makes Karl-Marx Allee a really strange place to be, again for me, it gives me a very strong feeling for the former East.

If you would like to visit the exhibition it will be on at Speakeasy Sprachzeug language school, 116 Boxhagener Str. Berlin (Nearest U-Bahn is Frankfurter Tor.) from June 24 until August 24. If you would like to buy a print of this or any other photo please feel free to send me an email (see contact).

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