How I spent my Christmas vacation

Looking for ways to spend time with my family this Christmas season, I decided to try my hand at the medium of felt buildings. My partner and daughter were working on seasonally-themed structures, but I figured GDR modern structures might benefit from the felt treatment . . .

First up, was a recreation of the “Maple Leaf” canteen in central East Berlin. The building’s distinctive roof was the trademark design of the iconic GDR architect Ulrich Müther and its shape gave the building its name. The canteen opened in 1973 and could seat up to 880 diners at once with its clientele coming from local schools and workplaces. Sadly, the “Maple Leaf” fell to the wrecking ball in 2000.

Emboldened by what I felt was an acceptable result with my first attempt, I got more ambitious with my second project. This time I turned my attentions to my “Zweite Heimat” (Second Home), Leipzig, and its university buildings on Karl-Marx-Square (now Augustus Square). First, I recreated the distinctive University High Rise, a structure which has been a Leipzig landmark since it was built between 1968 and 1972. The tower is based on a design by Herman Henselmann, another of the GDR’s leading architects. and was one of a series of high rises built in East German cities during this period so as to give them a “socialist stamp” (for another example, see Henselmann’s second university tower, this one in Jena). While the design was intended to evoke an open book, locals apparently dubbed it the “Wisdom Tooth”.

My second felt depicts the main administrative building for the Karl-Marx University which went up in 1975 and sat at the foot of the tower. This structure was erected on the site of the university’s 19th c. main building, a neo-classical design which was badly damaged during WWII and the University Church which was not. Over the new building’s main portal hung a large bronze relief entitled “Departure” (“Aufbruch”) and featuring the university’s namesake.

While the tower was refurbished around the turn of the millennium, the administration building was removed and replaced with a building meant to evoke the silhouette of the University Church which had been demolished by GDR authorities in 1968.

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