The Design Observer Group

Posted 11.11.10

Frank Schirrmeister

Plain City

Berlin, Plain City

Plain City is an attempt to keep hold of something, to retain or preserve a particular vision of Berlin, whose only constant is constant change. Berlin today is deemed the trendsetting city in Europe. Due to clever marketing and low-budget airlines, it is known around the world as "the place to be." As someone who was born in Berlin, I find it difficult to keep pace emotionally as the city reinvents itself with dizzying speed. I often have the feeling that my own city doesn't belong to me anymore, but to the forces of the global economy. When photographing Berlin, I am constantly trying to scrutinize and to challenge the popular image of the city. I explore the town beyond the facade, delve into the deeper layers of the metropolis.


Since 2006 I have wandered Berlin with a large format camera, always during the weekend, always at dawn. The reason for getting up that early: the emptiness. Reducing the city to its plain, naked existence is for me a way to approach the essence of the place. Although the streets are devoid of people, traces of everyday life and activity are found everywhere. In the sallow morning light, Berlin's makeup seems about to crumble, and a transformation happens: things, buildings, places you have seen a thousand times before appear strange and new. In a while, nothing will look the same. The urban landscapes in these photographs are mostly places in transition, waiting for their reshaping. This leaves the chance for a sequel: how will these places look in a conceivable future?