Photowalk Potsdam #2: Concrete Living

In German real estate language every apartment or condo building that is just slightly above the market average gets the moniker “living” attached to it’s sales brochures. You are not just buying or renting an apartment you are buying into a whole new lifestyle. A new living. Premium living of course. How this ends up looking can be seen in the newly built district called “Bornstedter Feld”. An old military area that was converted into a new “livable” quarter with everything like schools, daycare, shopping, doctors and leisure all in walking distance.

Reality does look different though. Premium living also needed to be economical living. Which means most apartment blocks are well blocks with small windows. Public areas are sun drenched concrete squares, playgrounds might win architectural prizes but look otherwise rather boring for children. Except for a supermarket, bakery and drug store, local retail is pretty thin. There are just a few restaurants or coffee shops (actually a bakery with some seating). There really are no public spaces where people might gather, stroll, have a coffee and conversation. People sleep but they don’t “live” here. Life happens a tram ride into town. Here only the concrete is really at home.

Through the parasol

Sun drenched open areas made from stone and concrete. Giant parasols are the only things that make sitting outside bearable. Rubber mounds and stone balls were placed for unknown reasons.


I am sure this city square looks great on paper and in models. But why does this place exist? There is no reason to spend time next to a road and tram station. There is nothing here except a bakery and a pizza place. No playgrounds, no shade, no benches, only stone and some drab greenery.

Sharp edge
Beauty square

Most buildings are simple and economical rectangular affairs with little in the way of outside decoration. This place had to be built fast and ended up sterile and uninviting. I am reminded of socialist city planning albeit on a much smaller scale and with a bit more variety. But eventually you end with boring places where people just sleep and “house” but with life happening someplace else. A kind of condo suburb.

Burning Bush

Asymmetrical Symmetry

An inviting playground. Surely kids are delighted to play. Thankfully there is a (paid) park nearby with really nice playgrounds. But still a bold architectural move designing a sandbox as an irregular rectangle next to clean cubed buildings. Maybe next time a less bold and more fun design would be better.

Thank You

Despite my harsh criticism I do like this place. I would not want to live in one of these blocks but I like strolling through the area. The cold stone, the rectangular lines and overall emptiness speak to my photographic eye. Strange how we can find almost a certain kind of beauty within this concrete ugliness. If you ever visit Potsdam do take a little walk through this place. An hour at most though after that you can enjoy the park and tropical hall nearby.

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