Neighbourhoods in the light
Idea: An illuminated walk through Berlin’s oldest neighbourhood
WBM Wohnungsbaugesellschaft Berlin Mitte stages a neighbourhood.
The Nikolai Quarter directly on the Spree is a permanent fixture in the festival every year. It was rebuilt on the occasion of the city’s 750th anniversary celebrations. Around the reconstructed Nikolai Church, an ensemble of historic town houses and new buildings was created on a medieval ground plan, making the Nikolai Quarter a real Berlin landmark. During the festival week, it invites visitors to take a stroll through the historic neighbourhood and past atmospherically illuminated squares and facades.
The historic Nikolai Quarter has proven to be a crowd-puller in recent festival years. And rightly so: the many beautiful motifs and photo spots in the centre of Berlin and the inviting alleyways of the Nikolai Quarter make for an unbeatable “match”. This year, the uniqueness of the Nikolai quarter with its small romantic alleyways full of interesting shops, cafés and restaurants will be staged, because this historic location is “simply magical”. The productions are made possible by our loyal festival partner WBM, the Berlin-Mitte housing association.
The corner building with the striking Nikolai Quarter emblem will be staged as the “Gateway to the Nikolai Quarter”. The still image is deliberately reminiscent of Diagon Alley from the “Harry Potter” novels, except that the Nikolai Church stands at the end of the alley.
The street Am Nußbaum is also bathed in the sparkling glow of the TREE OF LIGHTS. Named after Berlin’s oldest and reconstructed pub “Zum Nussbaum”, the residential street with its many small shops is an attractive attraction for tourists.
The light art installations bring former residents of the historic city centre to life. After all, artist Alexander Reichstein believes that people never really disappear without a trace: “We can still hear words, footsteps and even breaths that were taken a long time ago. People from the past wander through the park, meet on the street and enjoy the fresh air on the balcony.” In UV light, the figures bent from wire and sprayed with fluorescent paint come to life like ghosts. These translucent figures merge with their surroundings and the old neighbourhood becomes part of the work. The stylised figures are reminiscent of line drawings, but are three-dimensional.
In the past, Probststraße was home to the provost’s office of St Nicholas’ Church, and the clergyman’s flat was also located here. Today, it is one of the many cultural, culinary and commercial venues in the neighbourhood. Now, during the festival, the glow of the TREE OF LIGHTS enchants the romantic street.
The artwork “WITH L.O.V.E. FROM NIKOLAIVIERTEL”, a 4.50 metre high, bright red and glowing heart, is located directly in front of the new fish restaurant “Fischer & Lustig” at Poststraße 26. The artwork in the restaurant’s front garden invites visitors to the FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS to take a photo or selfie and send it around the world on social networks.
Visitors were greeted with a still image projection on the striking corner building in Rathausstraße, where the famous Nathan Israel department stores’ once stood. Historical images of famous buildings in the neighbourhood were shown, and the Berlin bear waved cheekily and perkily to those arriving. On the house with the dove of peace, also located in Rathausstraße, the dove, modelled on a design by Pablo Picasso, was brought to life by means of a video production. The message “City of Peace” below it was awarded to the former East Berlin in 1979 by the Chairman of the World Peace Council Romesh Chandra.
In the Nikolai Quarter itself, the historically modelled court arbour with artistic still image projections could be discovered in Poststraße, which was illuminated for the first time at the festival. Well-known historical figures closely associated with the street were on display. These include Giacomo Casanova, for example, who resided here at the “Gasthaus zu den drei Lilien” in the summer of 1764. Or Elector Johann Sigismund, who fled from the White Lady in 1619 and met his end in the same house – both were featured in the projection motifs. The courtyard entrance next to the courthouse arbour was staged in corresponding shades of colour.
A floating illuminated ribbon of red poppies stretched through the treetops of Am Nussbaum and Probsstrasse, transforming into a dancing sea of flowers with every breath of wind. The art installation “Floraision” by the French artist studio Pitaya pointed the way to the attractions in the Nikolai neighbourhood. At the end of Probststraße, behind the Nikolai Church, visitors were able to immerse themselves in the striking light installation “Trees of Light”, a work by Otto Events.
At the end of the unique walk through the Nikolai quarter, it was worth taking a look at the New Stables, once home to around 300 horses, carriages and sleighs of the imperial court and now home to the Hanns Eisler School of Music. This year, the facade was transformed into a dance hall, with a collage of well-known and popular dance drawings by the Berlin milieu painter Heinrich Zille. The cheerful dancers seemed to be “swaying” directly on the water – some of the audience members felt inspired to join in.
Living and working in a historic neighbourhood – the Nikolai Quarter is one of the most beautiful ensembles in the capital and is always an attractive magnet for visitors.