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: Our Trip to Copenhagen Part I

So, last October during half term my partner and I finally went to Copenhagen! Being the bona fide Scandiphiles that we are, our visit was a long time coming! After a year of buying a house, spending the summer months getting the living room and kitchen sorted we really needed a break. We could have chosen any of the Nordic capitals but Copenhagen seemed to have it all to suit our interests and budget! We booked flights in August but found that all the hotels and hostels were quite expensive so we turned our attention to Couchsurfing.com and found a nice chap in central Copenhagen who suited our needs and time frame.

We went from Monday to Friday (but leaving in the morning), so we had four solid days to explore, which were ample. Any less and we wouldn’t have felt like we’d seen enough – and that was without seeing some of the really touristy stuff like the Little Mermaid! Our first impression of the city was of its exceptionally organised and reasonably priced public transport with which we became intimately acquainted as we got lost several times on the way to finding our host’s flat! Fortunately we had the rest of the afternoon to explore the city.

Copenhagen is flat and easily manageable on foot but by bicycle it really comes into its own. More than half of all traffic is by bike and the bike lanes themselves take precedence over everything else – look out cars and pedestrians! Having said that, our stroll into the centrum took about fifteen minutes and brought us to the intersection where Tivoli meets the city hall. We popped around the corner to the Radisson Blu SAS (and ventured in to see the Arne Jacobson designed building & interior). It was amazing seeing my most revered pieces of design in the context for which they were created. So many of the design classics of Jacobsen were made for this hotel, namely the Swan chair & sofa, the Egg chair, the AJ lamp. It was a real pilgrimage.

We’d planned jaunts for the other days so this late afternoon stroll was purely an exercise in soaking up the city.Our stroll took us through the main shopping district and began with the flagship Tiger store – all three floors! It was amazing. It had so many products that had long gone from the UK ones, or that seemed exclusive to Denmark. I was hoarding as much as I could carry, not thinking I’d have to somehow get them home. Round the corner on Østergade, were so many of my favourite design houses. Georg Jensen, Royal Copenhagen and HAY HOUSE. I was in heaven!

HAY HOUSE, especially caught my attention. The Danish brand has a store in the UK, in Bath, but sadly as of yet I haven’t had the chance to go.  The interior of the place was amazing, with its white walls highlighting the amazing design of the furniture and accessories inside. Plus, with its big panel glass windows, gave an amazing view over the street below.

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After scaling through all my favourite shops and new ones such as Illums Bolighus, it was time to start going home. Illums Bolighus which, like Skandium here in the UK had all the big Scandinavian designers in one place, but this one had more, such as Bjørn Wiinblad porcelain. However, on the way back to our host’s apartment I managed to find a few more shops to slink into, such as the amazing Søstrene Grene. Like Tiger, SG has a wide variety of products  from Jam and tea to cutting edge design and it’s so cheap too! Back home I was shocked to find out that there isn’t one at all in the UK, In Dublin weirdly, yes and In the Netherlands, France and Spain- as well as the other Nordic countries :(. I’m glad I bought as much as I did. Tom wasn’t though, he could see me being sidetracked shop after shop, and the Krone kitty was depleting, so, he steered me in the right direction home. We ended the night with amazing Vietnamese take out with our host, Theis. I had beef pho and glass noodles. Salty, hot & sour.Amazing!