When I ride the U-Bahn (subway) in Germany, two things always impress me. First, there are no turnstiles. Passengers are expected to have a valid ticket—and undercover inspectors patrol the trains asking to see them. And second, many of the stations are dressed in handsome—Ultra Sixties—glazed ceramic tiling. The tiling has a Mid-Century-Handsome and strongly-utilitarian, Updated-Bauhaus aesthetic—especially when you see entire (long) walls of it. The 1960’s aesthetic makes perfect sense: after World War II, as Germany rebuilt its damaged infrastructure (in this case, subway stations), they used the fashion of the day—which, in this instance was Mid-Century Modern. Furthermore, financial constraints being what they were, the designers needed to make as big a splash at the lowest possible cost. Tiles could be pressed, glazed and fired in a low-cost, high-volume manner. Unlike their turn-of-the-century forebears, these stations lacked the handcrafted detail of metro stations built during the Arts & Crafts period.
The vase above, made by Scheurich (West Germany) in the 1970’s, reminds me of the tiling I might see in a German Underground station. The vase’s structured, architectural design—finished with a cloudy blue and white glaze—takes me back to the efficient and stylish U-Bahn platforms of days gone by.
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