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Architecture and Urban Planning - A Memoir \ David Best
IV 1980 - 1990
Time-out in Berlin, Vienna and Istanbul
To cleanse my mind from the last couple of years' disappointments, and recharge the creative batteries, I took several holidays during the following two years to countries I had previously not visited for various enigmatic reasons.

 

Berlin

 

   Over the years, I had flown over Germany on my way to several countries in Europe, but on one previous occasion when the plane touched down in Munich for refueling, I remained in the plane for two hours.   By the summer of 1991, I felt ready to visit Germany, mainly through the encouragement of Israeli friends of mine who were either born in Germany or were from parents who where German refugees.  They considered that my attitude was already irrational, since I was deeply appreciative of so many aspects of German culture, in literature, music and of course particularly in architecture. They convinced me that it was already time for me to physically confront the country that had produced this great heritage.  I remembered that in the office of Heinz Rau, originally born in Germany and one of Israel's great but unappreciated architects, two large pictures hung on the wall of his studio office in Jerusalem.  One was of the Aya Sophia in Istanbul and the second Schinkels' Alt Museum in Berlin.  He had told me once that in his opinion, between these two disparate poles, lies the determinants of European architecture.   I had studied Schinkels' work only from books, but since the summer tours which I used to take during my university days, I realized that a true appreciation of architecture required the physical experiences of visiting the buildings themselves.  Schinkel intrigued me; he was an intellectual architect concerned with the controlled use of visual rhythms and the mathematics of proportion.  His precise and often eclectic use of traditional classical elements in his architecture did not preclude his capacity to touch the heart.   In the Schauspielhous, his concert hall in Berlin, Rau had told me that listening to Mozart there and simultaneously casting one’s eyes around the architectonic texture of the internal facades of the walls revealed the symbiosis of music and architecture.  I decided that it was time that I should experience the reality of Schinkel's architecture and discover for myself the hidden secrets of his unique craftsmanship.

    I was on my way to a symposium in Finland when Rina and I chose to break our journey and spend a week in Berlin.  It was about two years after the Berlin Wall had fallen and I was also interested to see yet another city that had been divided for so many years.  Our plane touched down at the Berlin airport on a balmy summer afternoon and I was ridiculously surprised to feel how normal everything was as we passed through the airport lounge and took the bus into the city.  The first visual impression of a city, which one has previously known only from books and pictures, is always intriguing.  On the way to the little guesthouse, which we had chosen, our impression of the city seemed so ‘gemütlich’. We stopped off at a cafe on one of the main shopping streets to watch the passing crowds.

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