Sunday, September 6, 2009

Nights with Berliner Unterwelten

One of the most memorable evenings in my life was spent in the refurbished bunker space of Berliner Unterwelten's headquarters at the Gesundbrunnen subway station. Since it's inception in 1997, the organization has done a tremendous amount of work including: documentation of underground historical structures, conversion of war time bunkers into museum and association headquarter space and guided tours, which have proved very popular. As a "Society for exploration and documentation of subterranean architecture" they are a model organization- definitely for groups dedicated to researching underground space in their city, as well as for a preservation societies. They've honed in on a very specific niche that also does tremendous justice to the extensive underground architecture of Berlin. The organization is prolific in publication and prodigious in activity.

While living in Berlin, attending their meetings was an absolute highlight of my week. To be in a room, for regular meetings, filled with people as passionate about the underground as I was, albeit in different ways, was a great thing.

It's difficult, and not very fun, to imagine being crammed with scores of other people in the bunker space that Berliner Unterwelten's tour guides take you through. The guide will paint a portrait of what this bunker space was like during wartime- a visual that needs to be heard as indeed, that is what the buildings stand as a testament to.

But on a celebratory New Years eve, with candlelit dark spaces , wine, charming music and good company, the atmosphere was just right. In fact, I wasn't terribly keen on leaving. I have clearer appreciation for the bunkers-converted -to-home (or underground "mansion") movement partly due to this time spent at Berliner Unterwelten's headquarters. It's very pleasant, if you're the type who likes this space, and you're there out of your own will and interest.