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  • Writer's pictureRachel Cockburn

8 beautiful things to see in Berlin

Photograph of underground train station platform, with black floor, strip lighting and a mix of white and rainbow rectangle tiles.
Photo by Rachel Cockburn

Berlin. November 2022. I’ve got to start with the U-Bahn - just LOOK at this rainbow tiling! The colour palette is so nice, and the way it’s used on the edges of the pillars, and echoed on the wall next to the rails… really, really nice.

Photograph of underground train station with high ceiling, colourful billboards and large rectangular mint green tiles on the wall.
Photo credit: Rachel Cockburn

Lots of the stations had these big tiled walls with lots of tones of one colour - like this mint green one here. Also interesting to see what ads were on the billboards - more on that in another post.

Photograph of mid denim blue mosaic tiles in varying grids made of small square and rectangular pieces with white grout.
Photo credit: Rachel Cockburn

This beautiful tiling is on the lower edge of the wall at the Tränenpalast - the old departure hall for crossing from East to West Berlin, a place of trauma and part of Germany’s devastating history. It’s now a museum, next to Friedrichstraße station which you’ll see in the next photo.

Photograph of Friedrichstraße station in Berlin from the outside entrance, the upper level is modern and covered with glass, the ground floor level entrance is dark and appears art deco in style.
Photo credit: Rachel Cockburn

I really fell in love with the way Berlin seems to have integrated it’s traumatic histories into everyday places. This station building is stunning and as creatives we can learn so much from the proportions, the line thicknesses, the distances between pillars and position of features. But it’s also a place which is symbolic of the partition of Germany and the horrendous events that took place at that time. It’s a super busy station, in a big shopping area.

Photograph of yellow train traveling under a small red and white ornate building which is built above the train track. In the foreground is a busy road.
Photo credit: Rachel Cockburn

Things that are completely normal and mundane to the inhabitants of a city are fascinating to a stranger. This tiny building with a train running underneath it really caught my attention (as this kind of thing just doesn’t exist in London) and it’s beautiful too.

Photograph of four storey buildings set around a cobblestone street, there are cafe umbrellas at ground level and an irregular shaped sundial attached to the top floor of one of the buildings.
Photo credit: Rachel Cockburn

These cobbled streets are pretty much everywhere in central Berlin, alongside leafy trees, and in this square an eccentric and fascinating sundial on the upper wall of the beige building caught my attention.

Photograph of inside of Reichstag dome, showing four levels of walkway around the inside of the glass, a pale marble floor, and a central metal structure covered in strips of mirror.
Photo credit: Rachel Cockburn

It’s free to visit the Reichstag government building and travel up to the roof to view this stunning glass and metal dome created as part of the building renovation by Norman Foster. The walkway slopes up around the inside of the dome, with huge panoramic views of the city, and then continues back down the other side. From the floor level looking up, the people moving along the walkways up and down make a beautiful mirrored pattern. It’s so worth a visit.

Photograph of an art gallery lobby area, with double height dark wood simple style framed glass entranceways, white walls and ceiling, and pale stone floor, with several visitors silhouetted in the space.
Photo credit: Rachel Cockburn

Last but not least (I have lots more to share from Berlin) this is a snap of the inside of the Neue Nationalgalerie. It was designed by Mies van der Rohe, and the main part of the gallery is in fact underground. Inside it’s minimalism on a grand scale, and the space and elegant lines give the whole place an amazing luxury feel.

Creative ideas
Replicate the rainbow colours and tonal mint colours in the underground station tiling to use as a colour palette for an illustration or repeat print
Try out the different sized tiled grids as a potential geometric repeat, with tonal colour palette.
Take a very simple design layout and double the size to an unexpected scale, like the double height minimalist interior at the Neue Nationalgalerie.

Let me know if you've been to Berlin and what were your highlights? I’ll share more of the art I saw, fun design ideas and lifestyle trends, in the next few posts.


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