I sometimes visit a friend of mine at Johanniterstr. 5 in Berlin-Kreuzberg and the building always makes me smile. It’s a U-shaped apartment building that is both very Modernist and quite friendly-looking. Though it’s made of pre-poured gray cement slabs like many of its severe-looking counterparts in East Berlin (and also in Gropiusstadt, see below), its chubby, rounded white balconies and bright-yellow windowframes give it a cute, cheerful appearance. It also doesn’t hurt that the building’s proportions are modest – just 5 floors – or that it is home to many plants, in unexpected places and forms.
The first thing that struck me on my first visit there was this ground-floor balcony, covered in an elaborate lattice of green plastic vines and figurines of birds and animals. The arrangement probably has a functional purpose, as a screen against unwanted observers. Normally I’m not a fan of plastic plants, but this balcony is so odd and was clearly arranged with such care that I find it endearing instead of kitschy.
Also on my first visit, last fall, I found a plant seated on a folding chair in the stairwell. I am always happy to see apartment-house dwellers whose gardening efforts spill over into the territory beyond their apartment. It means risking a run-in with the building maintenance people or worse, having a plant hurt or stolen by other people passing through the halls, but they do it anyway. I like to think this means they are such generous people that they want to garden for the enjoyment of their neighbors, or they just can’t stop their gardening urges at the boundary from their apartment to the shared building space.
Speaking of barely restrained exuberance, on Thursday, I saw this overgrown geranium straining at the glass. It clearly wants to get out where the sunshine is.
In my friend’s apartment, some onions she had been intending to eat also decided to make a break towards the window.
These are just a few of the interesting little plant moments I’ve experienced at Johanniterstr. 5. I’ll try to collect some more on my next visit.