So, you find yourself in a strange Berlin neighbourhood in the former DDR, you turn the corner and badabingbada-concrete-boom, well boom-boom actually, because you just found the Akademiebusen. That’s the local nickname for two huge concrete spheres a brutalist architectural fixture in Aldershof.
Morris Scheffler, Head of Design Studio at BBDO Berlin, a fan of brutalist architecture, was smitten. ‘They caught my curiosity, I still had a quarter hour to spare before my meeting began so I went over and took a look. The building is very weird and encountering it I had no clue as to what I was looking at’.
Anyone who knew the building back in the secretive GDR era would find the next comment unfathomable, ‘so the information board chart was really helpful’
Morris continued ‘I walked full-circle around them and took a lot of pictures trying to find the most impressive angles. I really love the spherical design combined with concrete, most brutalist buildings are actually quite straight and edgy. You can’t help but notice that the local’s nickname is spot on, it’s true, they do look like female breasts. They’re a funny sight at first but then you start to realize how impressive the design actually is’. (At this point I’m trying to imagine precisely what it must be like to stand next to an eleven-metre high section of an upper torso)
The Isothermal Spherical Laboratories are surrounded by flowerbeds, Morris thinks that this has nothing to do with spring planting and everything to do with making the building a little bit inaccessible unless you are willing to trample down the tulips.
The fascination with all things emanating from the Arbeiter und Bauern Staat (yep the Workers and Peasants’ State, to use it’s correct name) has not abated, driven not just by tourists but locals too, that in turn is paving the way for the government viewing a wider group of relics of a failed state as worthy of protected status. That fascination goes further, it’s fostering conversations about back-in-the-day language ‘Ossies’ and ‘Wessies’ are swapping ideas and expressions on forums.
So what precisely was going on inside the globes? Built in 1959, the Institute of Physical Chemistry was created to carry out a remarkable secret experiment on behalf of the state-owned aerospace industry. Inside the two concrete spheres sit interconnected laboratories designed to carry out experiments in the taking of thermodynamic high precision measurements. I’d like to say I understand what that means but it’s all sci-fi novel stuff to me.
Designed by architect Horst Welser, the idea was to be able to control any potentially fluctuating temperatures. However, seems it didn’t quite work and in the end, the labs in the spheres were consigned to lowlier experiments. A certain Doctor A Merkel studied at the institute before she decided her career path was best served in politics.
Wandering off the béton track with Morris Scheffler, we asked:
Favourite Film? The Witch by Robert Eggers
Best Bar in Berlin? John Muir, Skalitzer Str. 51 Kreuzberg
Bucket List stuff, what would you most like to photograph? Ricardo Bofill’s La Muralla Roja …exploring all those countless angles, corners and shades.
Favourite brutalist architecture in Berlin? Narrowing it down to three, it would be St Agnes church, The Pallaseum aka Sozialpalast and Haus Plettner, (we don’t seem to have a photo of this – if you’ve taken one do send it into Greyscape please!)
‘bear in mind, all brutalist buildings in Berlin are suffering from the same issues as in other cities. Most are at risk and will need to be torn down or renovated. However, when you get closer to the historic wall, in the city-centre then buildings are better cared for and protected, there is a recognition that they are major tourist attractions’.
Images of the Isothermal Spherical Laboratories are the Copyright of Morris Scheffler ©
You can find Morris on Instagram at @morris.jpg
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