Centrum Warenhaus - Honeycomb's big. Ja, ja, ja!

It's not schmall. Nein nein nein! This postcard shows us some East German building or other ornamented in typical German flamboyance. 1) Choose a geometric shape 2) Repeat shape. 3) Danse. As simple as this is, it works on me, possibly because of it's simplicity. The repetition of the chevron-oid shape creates a honeycomb pattern all over the facade of the Centrum department shtore in the good old DD of R.
Centrum was a chain of government-owned department stores in the GDR. In a surprising fit of coolness, the GDR chose to
distinguish all the Centrum stores with an "ornamental metal facade". Don't believe me? Have a look at the Googlefully translated Wikipedia page for yourself and see Centrum's big big honeycomb taste.

It's hard to tell when this picture was taken, because all DDR public construction has that brutalist-mod look that stands in such contrast to the current trend of make-it-look-like-someone's-liver architecture we enjoy today. Let's zoom in on some of the shoppers down on der strasse and see if there are any clues...

Men on the left: bushy-haired 70's. Girl in the middle: Carol Brady haircut and thick-heeled sixties mommy shoes. Couple on the right: Quasi-beehive hairdo and turtleneck-blazer combo. So, it looks like the early seventies.

It'd be interesting to browse a DDR-era department store. I wonder what good, sturdy East German underwear looks like. Do the encyclopedias show anything beyond the borders of East Germany, or just little drawings of dragons and sea serpents?

Commenter Craig had some experience in the DDR, back in Yore. Maybe he's been inside a Centrum? I bet it was a lot like my inexpensive Chinese-made toaster, which, despite being made of stainless steel, only delivers 70% of it's current to the left slice, ensuring that  if the left slice is done properly, the right side will be on fire. Wait. What am I thinking? TWO slices at once? Making two toasts at once is a decadence of Der Korrupt West that was probably frowned upon in the DDR. Better still, a proper East German would eschew the toaster altogether and heat the bread over the flames coming out the back of the television set. Then, he could do an interpretive dance celebrating his remorse over his unsatisfactory toast experience.


Craig F said...

I stayed in East Germany for a couple of nights, in one of those gigantic "human compartmentalization collective" buildings.

It was like staying in one of those big plastic towers that they used to sell Matchbox cars out of at the drug store.

Craig F. said...


I haven't been able to post here for a while, but I've been reading every day.

Stupid blogger!

Phil Are Go! said...

Yes. Blogger's been having some cashsplosions in the last week or so. This morning it happened in the middle of making this post. This accounts for the freaky text formatting seen above, which has so far foiled all my attempts to un-freak it.

I always assume you're eyes are glued to the PAG, Craig. I'd feel a disturbance in the force if they weren't. Thanks for commenting!

Anonymous said...

I visited the Centrum store in 1970 or 71. it was amazing...the men's department had 1 or 2 suit on the rack and 2 or 3 pairs of shoes on display. the women's department had about 3 or 4 dresses on the dress rack. I went to the electronics dept. to check on a camera (Practika Super TL). they had 1 in the whole case and would not show it to me because I was an American GI in uniform. the Vopo's (East German Police) followed me around the whole store.

Tony Skaggs said...

Late comment, but I just saw your post now :) I was at the Centrum Department Store in Alexanderplatz several times in 1987, 88, and 89. It was stuffed full of things to buy all three times, but the quality was not good for most items, especially of ready-to-wear clothes. A color tv set cost the equivalent of $1500, and VCRs were not for sale, nor were CD's which were then very popular in the West. Underwear was fine, even American soldiers and their wives bought it because it was so cheap, but it was not very fashionable. Centrum was like a very big Kmart, but with much less selection and lower quality. The store was packed with people - constantly - since it was the biggest branch of Centrum in the country. It all seems very long ago now...

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