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The Urban Discovery Lab


GERMANY | Tuesday, 5 May 2015 | Views [186] | Scholarship Entry

“It’s here.”
The first brave explorer helped us over the crumbling concrete wall after scouting ahead in the shadows. There were only a handful of us left after the group splintered at the beginning of the night, but this was to be expected from such a group, American study abroad students in the first few weeks of our semester in the German capital. We were young, excited, and alive, ready for an adventure in the urban jungle of Berlin, full of energy and hope, happily and willingly swallowed up by the city’s electric dynamism.
We circled the building and found a gaping entrance in the back, carefully navigating shards of glass and fallen rubble that lay strewn across the ground. Out of the darkness stepped an old man with unbelievably tattered and dirty clothes mumbling German to us in a strong Berlin accent tinged with the effects of the bottle. With our mobile phone flashlights, we made our way up the stairwells of the hollow brick building and stepped onto the roof of Eisfabrik.
The building stands on Köpenicker Straße 40-41 on the southern side of the Spree River directly overlooking the water. Before the luxury of modern refrigeration, Eisfabrik (ice factory in German) manufactured ice for the bars, breweries, and fish markets of Berlin beginning in the late 1800’s. It survived the destruction of the Second World War and continued to operate until the 1970’s when its location put it directly on the border between East and West Berlin. By 1995 it had been abandoned, unofficially opening the facility up for squatters, graffiti artists, losers and young people to share a drink together.
From the roof of Eisfabrik we had a spectacular view of the lights from the clubs on the northern side dancing across the river. Sitting against a slanted side of the roof under the towering smokestack jutting into the sky, we spoke about life and philosophized to sentimental tunes by LCD Soundsystem coming through the speakers of a group of young Germans up there with us. We remained there deep into the night and into the morning as the sun peeked up on the eastern horizon past the many bridges of the city.
Eisfabrik encapsulates the spirit and state of modern Berlin—a gritty abandoned relic of the past with colorful and imaginative graffiti on its many surfaces that piques the curiosity of those willing to get their hands dirty looking for something authentic, something that has survived just as the city itself has through the turmoil of history.

Tags: 2015 Writing Scholarship

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