City glass, a very public gallery

“How would you like to live in Looking-glass House, Kitty?”

When Alice asked this of her kitten, glass and especially mirrors were not as common as they are today, to Alice a reflection in a mirror was something special, to be pondered over, it appeared to offer a whole other world beyond the reality of her own.

If only she could get there . . .

The distorting effect of a rail carriage door window at Bahnhof Zoo
The distorting effect of a rail carriage door window at Bahnhof Zoo

But life moves on, and science now has an explanation for almost everything,  with refractive indexes, glancing angles, incidental light etc., and has gradually but inexorably taken the mystery out of most of the things Alice encountered in her Wonderland.

A shop full of wicker products, just as a girl cycles past on the street outside
A shop full of wicker products, just as a girl cycles past on the street outside

But that very same science and resulting technological advance has brought about a revolution of the modern shopping high street, modern architecture and the abundant use of glass has transformed most towns and cities into a gigantic funhouse, a stroll down any high street can quickly become an optical adventure such as Alice could only have experienced while on a visit to a travelling fair staring into victorian carnival mirrors.

A set of windows high above street level
A set of windows high above street level

Gigantic sheets of glass have now become the reflective environment which we confront ourselves with on any shopping trip,  weird amalgamations of partially reflected exteriors together with brightly lit interiors, all struggling for attention.

It can often resemble ambling through an ever-transforming public art gallery, displaying works ranging from the psychedelic to that of surrealism and even occasionally nightmare-inducing visions of the disturbed. 

A set of glass panes at Potsdamer Platz, Berlin,   repeatedly reflecting oncoming pedestrians
A set of glass panes at Potsdamer Platz, Berlin, repeatedly reflecting oncoming pedestrians

If you so choose, wherever the eye wanders, works of art hang ready framed for those who care to recognise and indulge its charm, and it’s all free.

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The Hauptbahnhof, a monument to success

A neuron, or nerve cell, is an electrically excitable cell that communicates with other cells via specialized connections called synapses. It is the main component of nervous tissue in all animals except sponges and placozoa. Plants and fungi do not have nerve cells – Wikipedia

But replace the word “neuron” with “main rail station”, “synapse” with “tracks” and “nervous tissue” with “nation-state”, and it almost perfectly describes the workings of a modern rail system.

The metaphor makes clear as to the importance a good working transport system has to the modern developed state, and it could be argued that without one, there is an increased danger of political turmoil, occasionally leading to a failed-state: anarchy.

The Cube, opposite the Hauptbahnhof, Berlin
The Cube, opposite the Hauptbahnhof, Berlin

And so not only is a good transportation network of strategic importance, but it’s also something that a State often uses to display a sense of national pride, of its political and accompanying economic success. 

And Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof, a steel-framed palace of glass is no exception, there is no doubt as to its importance as it imposes its presence on the sky-line, dominating the area, towering over everything far and wide. 

Inside the station itself
Inside the station itself

The station entered the planning stage shortly after the fall of the wall in 1989, as part of the plan to reunify Berlin, work took place in several phases, and the station was ceremoniously opened in 2006.

And what a hub of energy it has become, the constant hustle and bustle of travellers arriving by bus, tube and taxi, others leaving by the same means, while some just wait until a much-anticipated connection becomes available, the station is almost a small town in its own right, catering for the weary traveller’s every imaginable need.

Triptych: The family travels - 1
Triptych: The family travels – 1
Triptych: The family travels - 2
Triptych: The family travels – 2
Triptych: The family travels - 3
Triptych: The family travels – 3

The station is not only a symbol of progress, it embodies the very nature of progress itself, as every passenger, and therefore every idea, is distributed effectively and efficiently throughout a nation, guaranteeing it’s very future.

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