Who suspects architecture in this innocuous looking wall arrangement at Zollamt Schöneberg? The fan is anti-design, as is the ticket dispenser, the calendar, the sign, the counter, the terminals. Yet, the situation is full of architectural meaning, certainly to you as a user, as you queue at the customs desk under the president’s watchful gaze, wondering if (metonymically) his hands will eventually appear through the tiny window and fork over your in-laws parcel, once your number is called up silently on the display, and when that might be.
With these connotations of power, and a lovely unabashed expression of direness, the arrangement even acquires a kind of dystopian bureaucratic beauty. Beautiful how this single wall accommodates in such a matter-of-fact objectivity the essential devices, services, and functions, of gate keeping, which focus an almost unnerving sense of expectation and suspense around the wall’s small and ordinary, single aperture. Will they decide favorably? Will you be able to convince them that you are not part of a transatlantic children’s shoes smuggling ring? Will you be successful in unlocking this tiny door and will you at last get to see Joachim Gauck’s hands?
An eye and an appreciation, if not a fetish, for this particular Germanic aesthetic, the unabashed, almost futurist expression of bureaucratic function, I find a sheer indispensable source of stamina in the hallways of German government buildings. I was hoping that posting two almost identical pictures of the same subject could convey a sense of the mixture of maddening ennui and anxiety I felt being at this architecture’s mercy prior to discovering the wall’s latent beauty.