DDR Museum & Communist Design

I’m spending this weekend in Berlin, a city I always find inspiring and fascinating to visit. There’s an edgy, progressive feel to the place, nowhere more so than within the contemporary art scene, which is truly ‘world class’. I’m also incredibly fond of design produced under the Communist regime, and love staying in parts of old East Berlin, such as Mitte. This time I managed to find a gap in my schedule to visit the DDR Museum. To be honest, I was a little shocked at how small it was, but don’t let that fool you – I spent a good three hours here perusing the every day objects found in the many cabinets.
Quite a few of the objects looked incredibly fashionable and stylish, in a superb 1950s-60s way. But it’s important to realise that after the 1960s, most design pretty much stalled, so the same old designs continued to be produced into the 1980s. Progressive in their day, but no progression afterwards. Quality also often deteriorated and, later on, an all-pervasive very cheap feeling plastic was used for many items. As such, many people customised these goods to add a touch of human personality and individuality to the dull, repetitive drudgery. My favourite area had to be the mocked up living room typical of the mass-scale, bolted together ‘Platte’ tower blocks. I even found a chipboard cabinet (above) filled with ceramics and glass typical of the period! I spent quite a while sitting on the sofa, watching the video of typical TV broadcasts, imagining what it must have been like. If you’re into this area, a visit is a must. And don’t forget to check out the East German equivalent of coffee – with seeds and grains mixed in with the coffee beans, it resembles muesli more than it does coffee! I dread to think what it must have tasted like…!

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