My friend Matze is part of a very special project transforming an old freight train depot into an artists residence. His organization Kunst Republik won the bid from the city to renovate the building for a new use and it’s a huge, ambitious and exciting undertaking. I first saw the station under construction in November -workmen everywhere were sealing up walls, laying bricks, cutting things with loud power tools. The building had been closed for sometime and held interesting artifacts from the GDR and even a Nazi-era poster asking for support for a “winter-aid” program. There’s a “panic-room” on the ground floor, complete with slots to fire at your enemies from, and a bunker in the basement. At one point, a Chinese restaurant stored a bunch of ornate wall panels there and forgot to pick them up. There’s still a lot of mystery about the building and everything that transpired there.
Yesterday I was there again to help with a “cleaning action.” Most of the construction is finished and help was needed to do some of the less technical work, mainly sweeping and washing the floors, sorting and picking up trash from the painting, etc. It was amazing to see how far things had come -all the walls are built and the ceilings repaired, everything covered in a fresh coat of white paint. All the windows are installed and tile laid -it looks really beautiful! Tons of light poured into the building and the large space seems full of possibilities.
The work was hard and incredibly dirty (unbelievable how much dust there was), but I didn’t mind it at all. We had a really nice lunch sitting together outside on the platform eating pizza and watermelon. The landscaping around the station is finished and there’s a fantastic view of the old brick buildings of the west port along the Spree. It’s really such a spectacular place and I am so impressed with Kunst Republik. All day, I kept thinking about the scene in Andrei Rublev in which a young man directs dozens of workers in the seemingly impossible task of casting a bell. Only after the bell is finished does he admit that he didn’t know what he was doing, and you realize that the whole thing was executed by pure faith -not to suggest that Matze & co. don’t know what they are doing, but the sheer scale of this project certainly required a leap into the unknown, and it’s fantastic to see it being realized.