Museum der Dinge & Bauhaus Archive
Like any any city worthy of the title, Berlin is overflowing with galleries and museums. I'm pretty sure that you could spend several months traversing the city on daily basis without having look at the same piece of art twice. Whilst this is wonderful it can also be a curse and museum fatigue is an ailment that has struck us, and I expect you, on many occasions when on holiday.
The symptoms are clear to see: a glazed look in the eye, a heaviness in the legs and feet and an ever decreasing attention span. This leads to cursory glances given to anything which doesn't immediately shout "I'm important, unusual and incredibly influential - stare at me now!" Actually that could go for a few people with larger than normal ego's as well.
After many years of happy travelling we have managed to introduce steps to inoculate ourselves against this well known holiday illness. Our latest trip to Berlin was a case in point, and we decide to limit ourselves to visits to just three of the multitude of gallery experiences that were on offer. I've previously mentioned that on this trip we visited the DDR Museum, which provided a fascinating insight to life in the former East Berlin, covering the working of the state and its impact on day to day to life. Our other two choices followed in a similar vein, they both showcase design and it's impact on the everyday, be that in the design of a toothbrush or a building and then the artwork that you may wish to place in the space that you are inhabiting. They provide valuable keys towards understanding the reasons behind the way our built environment looks today. They also highlight the importance of German design and make an interesting and complimentary couple of visits.
Museum der Dinge - literally Museum of Things. From the minute you arrive at this place, you can tell it's going to be an interesting experience. The museum is located at 25 Oranienstraße, an interesting street in the Kreuzberg district and is in within walking distance of a couple of U-Bahn stops. Unusually, the museum is not on the ground floor on the building, it is though easily accessed by ascending a couple of flights of stairs (there is also a small lift) and is clearly signposted. You enter the museum via its well stocked shop, in fact it's quite easy to spend twenty minutes or so looking through the array of books, posters, cards and gadgets on display here. Having finally moved beyond the counter and into the exhibition area you are in for a treat.
The initial space in front of you is given over to temporary exhibitions, on the left you will see a series of large wooden display cabinets which go back much further than I would initially have imagined when entering the museum. Row after row of cabinets display the work of Deutcher Werkbund a design collective which originated in 1907 with the idea of promoting modern, functional pieces. I'll admit that I had never heard of this organisation before our visit to the Museum der Dinge, so it was fascinating to see the huge range of work that they were involved with. Literally anything that you can imagine being in your home, place of work or mode of travel is crammed into the space.
We were particularly taken with some fabulous 1920's-30's crockery but there is plenty here to catch your eye. The cabinets are grouped thematically and also take you on a journey through the decades. Nothing is too serious or too throwaway to be be excluded, in the daunting and beautiful collection. There is also a fully fitted, actual size "Frankfurt Kitchen" from 1926, that you can wander through as you admire the modernity of the ideas behind the layout of this 90 year old room.
The museum also features a wonderful array of electronic equipment from the most over the top TV and music centre to examples of the most minimilist Hi-FI that you can imagine. If you had any interest at all in design then this is a wonderful place to spend an hour or so.
Bauhaus Archive - The word Bauhaus instantly conjours a variety of images in my head and maybe yours. It could be the harsh, sparse rigidity of the architecture that was produced by the staff and students of this, the most famous of all, design schools. Maybe it's the sculpture or experimental photography that came from its denizens. It could be the revolutionary furniture, all clean lines and lightness of touch that changed the way we looked at the production and importance of the humble chair, shelf unit or desk. The textile designs that produced incredible art and stunning clothing. The bold and adventurous art that changed the worlds perception of colour and form in the world of painting. The list goes on and on.
This Berlin museum building is designed by one of its most famous names, Walter Gropius and it showcases a variety of the work that produced by Bauhaus members. Wisely, they don't try to cover the huge amount of work that flowed from the school, preferring to focus on some some key items from the various disciplines, helping to build an understanding of the the way that talent, free thinking and experimentation were aloud to flourish in atmosphere that fostered a new way of thinking about what we need to live a life.
There are many exceptional things to see here. My own personal favourite is a delightfully light hearted short film showing the advantages of living in a Bauhaus designed home. Maximum use of space is drawn form the brilliant array of gadgets and multifunctioning items. Sometimes the Bauhaus can be viewed as rather earnest and dour but this film shows the other side of their desire to improve the quality of people's lives by making things work in the best way that they could.
The influence of Bauhaus is still very strong today and looking around this place it's easy to see why. In a world where tastes change quickly and the the hip thing from today quickly becomes dated and laughable, the timeless beauty of so much that came from the Bauhaus is truly staggering. The Bauhaus Archive provides a perfect introduction to what can easily become an obsession.
As ever there is a shop which sells an array of Bauhaus related items, from posters to kitchen utensils. There is also a small cafe which provided us with some absolutely lovely soup, never a bad thing.