Walking along Karl-Marx-Allee, do you ever wonder what Berlin’s widest, most imposing boulevard was like during its socialist glory days? Central Berlin, DDR Limited (€29.90) is a bilingual coffee table book that celebrates the Ku’damm of the East and its central square, Strausberger Platz.
While the bulk of the book is devoted to interior design photos showing the contemporary use of the buildings that line the street, the real highlights are the black-and-white pictures of everyday life along the boulevard from the 1960s-1990s by photographers like Max Ittenbach and Harald Hauswald.
There’s also a chapter about the street’s construction in the 1950s and the challenges of chief architects Henselmann and Paulick. The most surprising inclusion is the last chapter, “The Smell of History” – a scratch-and-sniff page that gives off a faint aroma of tar and paper: “scents from Strausberger Platz in the 1950s and now”.
Beautiful photos of architectural details by Hans-Georg Esch offer peeks into buildings that you wouldn’t normally enter, although the accompanying texts and captions can tend toward the clunky, misleading or totally clueless. But then again, the pleasures of this book are from looking rather than from reading. Or smelling.
Central Berlin, DDR Limited, published by Skjerven Group, 2015