The Berlin Wall was finally opened in 1989 and demolished by 1992, effectively lifting the Iron Curtain that had divided Europe for decades. This appeared to be a major blow to walls, and yet more than two decades later, walls are still with us. Why?
1. The Berlin Wall was only one wall: In the late 1980s, there were many walls in the world, and the Berlin Wall was not all of them. Instead, it was just one of them. The long-term consequences of this fact were far-reaching and various, but the most significant was that when the Berlin Wall was destroyed, only one wall was destroyed.
2. Not all walls are connected to each other: Though the Berlin Wall was very long, it was not so long that it joined up with all other walls in the world. If this had been so, there’s a chance that demolishing the Berlin Wall would have ended walls forever, and today we’d be living in a world without walls. But it was not to be.
Rudi Meisel was one of the very few West German photographers to cross the Berlin Wall into East Germany, using his lens to capture authentic street life in the GDR – despite the best efforts of censors.
Keith Haring painting a mural on The Berlin Wall. October 23, 1986. Photos by Tseng Kwong Chi.
Keith Haring had been invited
the Director of the Checkpoint Charlie Museum to paint the mural. He began shortly after 10 A.M., Since the first six feet of land on the Western side belong to the East, he was not just defacing property of the East German Government, he was entering that country without a visa. A West Berlin policeman used a megaphone to warn him of the fact. But Haring continued, sporadically leaping back onto Western soil when East German border guards looked as if they were about to arrest him.
After 90 minutes, he had completed a third of his mural. He painted an interlocking chain of red and black human forms on a bright yellow background. The colors were those of the East and West German flags.
The artist gave interviews to West German television and radio reporters as he worked and signed autographs. “It’s a humanistic gesture, more than anything else,” said Haring, who called his work “a political and subversive act - an attempt to psychologically destroy the wall by painting it.’‘Asked whether the event was merely a publicity stunt to draw attention to himself, he said, ’'The main objective here is that it is not an insignificant act that goes unnoticed. The entire world should know that it happened, reinforcing its political significance.”
Haring completed the mural shortly after 4 P.M., He denied that it was aimed specifically against East Germany. “It’s for people and it doesn’t matter which side of the wall they’re on. It’s about both sides coming together.”
By the next day, however, someone painted large sections of the mural grey and quickly, other artists painted graffiti on the hundred-metre section that Haring had used. Within months there was very little left to see.
When we think about the Berlin Wall, despite having an idea of how its length, we can’t easily envisage its real size. With this question in my mind, I decided to create a computer generated 3D model of the wall compiled together in a single frame.
I started by conducting some research on Wikipedia:
“The “fourth-generation wall” (Grenzmauer 75) , known officially as “Stützwandelement UL 12.11″ , was the final and most sophisticated version of the Berlin Wall. Begun in 1975 and completed about 1980,it was constructed from 45.000 separate sections of reinforced concrete, each 3.6 metres high and 1.2 metres wide. The concrete provisions added to this version of the Wall were done so as to prevent escapees from driving their cars through the barricades (“L” shape structure).The top of the wall was lined with a smooth pipe, intended to make it more difficult to scale. This version of the Wall is the one most commonly seen in photographs, and surviving fragments of the Wall in Berlin and elsewhere around the world are generally pieces of the fourth-generation Wall.“
The next step was to make a 3D model of a single segment from its blueprint and then duplicate it 45 thousand times. At that point I needed to decide how to compose all the pieces, so I ended up placing them together in the same proportions all from of a single segment. Doing this ensured that we are able to see both the shape of a single segment, on a larger scale, with more detail and the entire quantity that makes up the wall (exactly 45K pieces) together.
To envisage the actual size of the wall, the colossal structure (240 metres high) was placed in Alexanderplatz in true scale.
Another step of the project is to have a 3D printed version of this fractal design in 1:1 scale (3,6 meters). So the viewer can easily recognise its form from a distance and upon closer inspection the wall can be viewed in its entirety. I am in search of commissions or sponsors to have it printed. Please contact me if you are interested.
To demonstrate the 3D printed structure in real scale, it was virtually inserted next to original wall segments at Berlin Wall Gallery of Newseum in Washington, D.C. Photo Credit: Sam Kittner/Newseum
In this animation you see the whole fractal structure (exactly 45.000 segments) with a collapsing simulation. The original full length animation piece is available in 5+1 editions and FullHD resolution.
Peter Fechter, an 18 year old bricklayer, lies dying at the foot of the Berlin Wall in full view of witnesses, after he was shot by East German border guards while trying to escape over the wall near Checkpoint Charlie, 17th August 1962.