Design & Food: Nordic Berlin: The Nordic influence on the German Capital

Recently I went on a cultural exchange trip to Berlin with University, funded by DAAD. Whilst there I noticed the Nordic influence on the city. Whether it’s my Scandi-obsessed mind I don’t know, but I found many influences from the Northern lands on the German Capital.

Architecture

 

 

It is possible to see the Nordic influence within Berlin,with some of its architectural destinations.

 

The Hansaviertel complex, near the Tiergarten has some of the best examples of mid 20th century architecture in the country, Interbau, a competition devised in 1957, for the world’s best architects to come up with a building each, within the complex. Here, you’ll find buildings from the Scandinavian masters of functionalism; Alvar Aalto, Arne Jacobsen and Kay Fisker, along with other international tour-de-forces such as Oscar Niemeyer, Le Corbusier and the famous Bauhaus school founder, Walter Gropius. In recent years, they have uncovered- and restored, a mural on the pavilion of the Aalto building. This mural, is a wave of sinuous, organic lines, that references his famous piece of design, the Savoy vase- now produced by Iittala.

 

Built in 1999, the Nordic Embassies in Berlin house all the diplomatic buildings of the Nordic countries, shoulder to shoulder. Devised by architects Alfred Berger and Tina Parkkinen, the embassies,- all designed by teams of different architects have been arranged geographically, each one reflecting the qualities of each nation. For instance the use of Milk glass in the Norwegian Embassy, references the glaciers of the Norwegian landscape. The Swedish and Danish Embassies proudly display the materials of their homelands, with the Swedish Embassy using white Gotland limestone, and the Danish Embassy highlighting its use of warm wood, and contrasting cold steel- its trademark materials, made famous internationally. The Icelandic Embassy, features a floor, paved with large lava tiles, which are illuminated below with a red light- giving the impression of the stark, volcanic landscape of the country. The Finnish Embassy, even includes two saunas- a nod to the compulsory national past-time of Finnish life. At the heart of the building complex is the Felleshus, or the Pan Nordic Building- which combines a space for exhibition, conference rooms, canteen, auditoriums- for all of the Embassies- and the general public, too. Using a mixture of Nordic materials, this building, expresses the unity of the Nordic countries.

 

The Nordic influence on Berlin can even be seen in the most German of all buildings; The Reichstag Building, housing the Bundestag. Along with the amazing architecture of Norman Foster, the Danish architect Per Arnoldi designed the concept of all the doors and the protocol room.

 

 

 

Shopping

 

Being a capital, Berlin is a shopping haven. The Scandinavian influence shines no less here, with so many Nordic brands to choose from. If you’re looking for clothes shops, stores such as H&M, COS, ECCO, Monki and Marimekko are for you. Design lover? You’re spoilt for choice with stores such as Scandinavian Objects, Iittala, Bolia and Bo Concept. Not forgetting that the big department store,

KaDeWe, stocking the Scandi favourites such as Normann Copenhagen, HAY, Ferm Living, Design House Stockholm and Georg Jensen.

 

 

 

Food & Drink

If you’re fed up with currywurst and pommes and looking for something a bit more Northern in flavour, then the restaurant Munch’s Haus on Bülowstraße is worth a shout. Serving up Norwegian traditional fair, with a twist, I’d recommend a visit!

 

A place that is equally popular in Berlin, as they are in the Nordic countries, is the humble liquorice shop. Loved by Northern Euopeans alike, these small confectionary shops are where you go for your fix of the black gold, or rather salty, black gold- flavoured with Salmiak ( an ammonium salt). In Berlin, Kadó, is where you go. An institution for 18 years, they stock a variety of liquorice products, from subtle Italian stuff, to the punchy (and tongue numbing) Icelandic and Finnish liquorice.

 

Just fancy something light with a coffee? Then look no further than the Oslo Kaffe Bar, at the Nordic Embassies. Wether you’d like to have a ‘kaffee pause’,‘kaffe og kaker’,‘fika’ or ‘kaffee og kage’, the act of having something small, with a coffee (or tea) and an opportunity to catchup with friends is an institution all over Northern Europe. The Oslo Kaffe Bar is a great place to do it too! Sip a well made latte, and eat buttery, cinnamon filled pastries amongst great pieces of design, such as Jacobsen’s iconic Swan chairs. There’s nothing better, I dare you!
 

 

Miscellaneous

 

A few more Nordic influenced perusings on this trip:

 

When the group and I had an opportunity to bake for students at a school, I noticed their cupboards stocked with Rosti Mepal cookware. They seem to be very popular here. Once two brands, Danish Rosti and Dutch Mepal, the companies were combined in 1976. In 1950 the Swedish Sigvard Bernadotte and the Danish Acton Bjørn designed the Margrethe bowl. This stackable mixing bowl, named Margethe after the queen of Denmark, is now in many homes across Northern Europe and Berlin and is a Design classic.

At the U-bahn station in the Gesundbrunnen district, you’ll find a beguiling sight. Osloer Straße isn’t just named after the Norwegian capital, as architect Rainer G. Rümmler designed the station emblazoned with the Norwegian flag, since its conception in 1973.

 

 

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Design & Food: Our trip to Copenhagen part III (ii)

Late afternoon-ish we went back out for the next part of the journey, we were getting the train to Malmö to meet Tom’s childhood friend and his wife.

Buying a ticket to Malmö is fuss free and costs around twenty quid return.  We got on the very clean train (cleaner than anything back in the UK) and sat opposite each other looking at the window. Both of us humming the tune of Hollow Talk by Choir of Young Believers, the theme of the Scandi noir drama The Bridge/Broen/Bron with a smirk on our faces. The train itself doesn’t take long to get to the other side. The scenery of the sound was great don’t get me wrong, but I assume you can appreciate the spectacle a bit more if you cross with a car.

In a blink and we were at Malmö Central Station. When we stepped off the train there was a bit of a police or polis presence and, being the nerds that we are, were half expecting Saga Norén to be around the corner! We walked through the city, passing the Elite Hotel Savoy Malmö, a grand and exquisite 19th century building, you could imagine being in a Wes Anderson film.

First on the list was to change some money into Swedish Krona, which was quite easy as there was a Bureau de Change  around the corner. Expecting to change some of the Danish currency, weirdly it was a better deal changing from our GBP, so we did just that. Now we were ready to explore this amazing city.

We continued to the main square onto the stylish Södergatan where the streets are lined with chic shops and cafés. Shopping in Malmö has some of the familiarities of nearby Copenhagen, like Tiger (although over here its named TGR) but Malmö has its own range of Swedish shops that are simple and stylish and filled with things (sadly for me 😉 ) that are appealing to bring back home. Bolia for instance, is full of affordable Scandinavian design. Just walking into my favourite shop Granit is like a monochrome explosion. Everything in glass, concrete and black & white. I just had to stock up on glass bottles, in medicine bottle brown – mimicking ridiculously pricey Aesop products. To the left of Granit is Lagerhaus, like Granit- only cheaper. YAY!

Unlike Copenhagen, Malmö also has a Marimekko store and a MUJI – one of my favourite stores back home – well, when I visit London. We strolled onto Skomakaregatan in the Old Town, filled with small boutiques, artisan bakers and yet more cafés. Intrigued by a quirky little music shop, Folk å Rock. We went inside and I just got lost in the mountains of vinyl they stocked. Whilst Tom found his happy place, sipping a hot latte in the coffeeshop, downstairs.

 

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As I spent the rest of the afternoon shopping until the sun went down I sadly didn’t get to see one of Malmö’s most famous sights (and as an architecture fan, I’m kicking myself!). Over on Lilla Varvsgatan is the Turning Torso by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. It is the tallest building of the Nordic countries at 190m. The building (as I briefly saw when I got off the train, and since on Google)  literally twists, its sleek silhouette looking majestic in the sky. Thankfully, I will be able to actually see the building when we return (in February).

It was at this point when Tom’s school friend, Gareth came to meet us. He is one half, along with his wife, of the Swedish/Welsh design duo EmeryBloom. After checking a few more vintage records we all went out to the now chilly, dark streets. After introductions we popped in an out of the design stores in The Old Town we met up with Gareth’s wife, the beautiful and talented photographer Mysan Hedblom. Deciding where to escape from the night chill, we initially thought of a new Mexican restaurant. When we found out they were full, it was off back to theirs, with a stop on the way to a pizza joint, of course 😉

Well, myself and Tom weren’t. Pizza in this place was 200 SEK- £20 :/ So on Gareth’s recommendation we went to the Falafel house round the corner. For a tenner each we picked up a huge Lebanese falafel wrap filled with salad, hummus and pickles, a drink and some baklava. With the smell wafting up from the falafel, I just couldn’t wait to eat it.

We stepped into the lobby of an unassuming 60s office block, complete with marble effect floors and stained wooden panel. From the lift we emerged on the roof –  Yes, their house was on the bloody roof. Along with its neighbours it was an amazing glass box, with sharp angles looking out onto a communal garden space. Basically the stuff I read about in Deezeen. Inside, the walls were filled with their own pieces of art. Great photography by Mysan with graphic design by Gareth. This was the Scandinavian interior I’m trying to recreate back home in a Swansea semi-detached. We got the candles on and wine out and tucked in. The falafel was so good, with the sharp bite coming from the pickles. We finished the evening with the baklava, some tea from Well Tea co and a heap of Ylvis videos on Youtube.

Soon, it was time to get the train back to Denmark. I’m glad that the Mexican restaurant was full, as we had a better evening over theirs.

Tack så mycket both!