Based in London; Formerly of New York, Buenos Aires, Fife, and the Western Cape. Saoránach d'Éirinn.


A writer, blogger, historian, and web designer born in New York, educated in Argentina, Scotland, and South Africa, and now based in London. read more


This 1961 postage stamp celebrates the consecration, nine centuries earlier, of the Imperial Cathedral Basilica of the Blessed Virgin of the Assumption and Saint Stephen at Speyer — today the largest Romanesque church still standing.

November 4, 2016 2:20 pm | Link | 1 Comment »


I’ve been reading Golo Mann’s History of Germany Since 1789 — cracking stuff.

This depiction of Germania, the personification of the German nation, was for a stained-glass window in the Reichstag building, built between 1884 and 1894 in Berlin and since 1999 home once again to the German parliament.

February 22, 2016 9:05 am | Link | 7 Comments »

Haus Altmark

While the remarkable rebuilding and rehabilitation of Dresden is of a much more recent vintage, the historicist design of Haus Altmark (Herbert Schneider, 1953-1956) in that city is another good example of the Socialist Classicism of the DDR.

(c.f. Leipzig Opera House)

February 15, 2016 11:00 am | Link | 1 Comment »

Leipzig Opera House

The Leipzig Opera House is the swansong of Socialist Classicism as an architectural style. The 1954 plans of the architect Kunz Nierade had to be toned down mid-construction, with some of the sculptural adornment simplified, as the official aesthetics of the German Democratic Republic shifted towards a more aggressive modernism.

While the Soviet Union provided the more well-known examples of Socialist Classicism, the Germans rather typically (but sparsely) excelled their Russian overlords. Admittedly, the quality was inconsistent: the Karl-Marx-Allee has some fine details but the overall plan leaves me cold, though postmodernists Philip Johnson and Aldo Rossi have praised it.

I enjoy the restrained classicism of this building, though the flatness of the façade leans a little towards the dull, with only the projecting portico providing a bit of comforting depth. Critics have pointed out the lack of light-and-shadow contrast during the daytime, and have tended to prefer the building’s nighttime appearance. It’s worth mentioning that the snowflake-like hanging lamps in the building’s foyer have a significant place in the design history of East German lighting fixtures (a subject about which I know now more than I ever expected).

The finality of Socialist Classicism’s end cannot more clearly be emphasised when comparing the Leipzig Opera House with the assaulting brutality of the Neues Gewandhaus concert hall (1977) across the Augustusplatz in a style we associate more closely with the DDR period. That the similarly styled Palast der Republik in Berlin — possibly the building most readily associated with East Germany’s socialist regime — has been completely demolished to be replaced by a reconstruction of the old city palace is a reminder of the hopeful possibilities we have at hand.

February 1, 2016 9:10 am | Link | 2 Comments »

Sieg für die Schönheit

Sieg für die Schönheit

January 29, 2016 9:25 pm | Link | No Comments »

Zeitung für Deutschland

Given my total obsession with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung it will come as no surprise that my favourite advertising installation is the massive logotype for the world’s greatest newspaper which spans the railway tracks at the Frankfurter Hauptbahnhof.

In glorious Teutonic blackletter, it proclaims the newspaper’s ownership of the city to all comers:


Photo: Erhard Bernstein

And while it looks great in daylight, as the evening descends it is illuminated in neon blue. Like the FAZ itself, old-fashioned and modern all in one.

Photo: Otzberg

November 18, 2013 9:09 am | Link | 2 Comments »

Beauty and Revolution

“Schönheit und Revolution: Klassizismus 1770-1820”

20.II.2013 – 26.V.2013
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main

WHEN IT COMES to styles, I am an omnivore. There are die-hard partisans, like Pugin, but I find the Baroque, the Gothic, the Classical — all are welcome to me. There is always some tiresome bore who, upon hearing any particular style of art or architecture praised, will immediately launch into a tirade against the more negative connotations commonly associated with that style. Gothic is close-minded! Mannerism is affected! The Biedermeier is bourgeois!

Well… ok… to an extent. But, in truth, we brush aside these pedants and appreciate whatever is beautiful wherever it is to be found. Art in its many forms is a giant sponge to squeeze and collect, savor, what comes out of it. (more…)

March 3, 2013 9:00 pm | Link | 1 Comment »

The ingenuity of eighteenth century furniture

The Metropolitan Museum is hosting an exhibition, Extravagant Inventions: The Princely Furniture of the Roentgens, that continues for just a few days more. The show looks at the work of Abraham Röntgen and his son David, whose workshop created the most extraordinary pieces of furniture. A few of them are presented here in videos: above, a secretary cabinet, and below, a writing desk, dressing table, and automaton of Marie Antoinette. (more…)

January 11, 2013 9:37 am | Link | 3 Comments »


Bernhard Victor Christoph Carl von Bülow, one of Germany’s most highly regarded humorists, was born 12 November 1923 and left this world on 22 August 2011. He was better known by his nom de plume of Loriot, the French translation of his surname Bülow, which is German for the oriole bird. Vicco (as his Christian names were shortened to) von Bülow began drawing cartoons for Stern in the 1950s. From cartoons he moved into television in the 1970s and films the following decade. Loriot’s humour focussed on the peculiarities of German people including the awkwardness of everyday situations and miscommunication in human interaction.

Asked in 2007 to describe what his influences were, he said: “I remember that, when I started studying, I was living between a madhouse, a prison and a cemetery. The location alone explains everything, I think.” Lexicographically, he will be remembered for introducing into German the term ‘yodel diploma’ signifying a worthless degree — what in Britain is known as a ‘mickey mouse degree’.

Loriot fans will miss his knowing eyes peering out from behind those familiar reading glasses. R.I.P. (more…)

October 16, 2011 8:10 pm | Link | 1 Comment »

‘I Have Prussiandom in my Blood’

Loriot on Prussia and Prussianness

November 2003

The Viennese weekly Falter interviewed Vicco von Bülow — better known as Loriot — in November of 2003. In part of the dialogue, Loriot explored the Prussianness of his family and upbringing, musing upon some aspects of what it is to be Prussian, turning away from the simplistic categorisations. Via Günter Kaindlstorfer.

Loriot: I am committed to my Prussian roots. I was born a Prussian, I have Prussian, so to speak, in my blood. That this defines you for yourself is not new. One is born there, so one has to accept it.

Prussian vices have caused too much harm over the past 150 years.

Loriot: That’s right, I will not deny it at all. Nevertheless, I am proud of my native town of Brandenburg; I am also proud of my country of origin. Here I will not deny, however, that I have been occasionally affected by the disaster that this country has done throughout history, time and again. Only: Which country has, over the centuries, not caused many evils? I will not have the Prussian reduced only to its negative sides. (more…)

October 16, 2011 8:05 pm | Link | 1 Comment »

The Namibian Way of Reconciliation

Accepting differences, not erasing them, is the path to civic harmony

DISCORDIA GERANT ALII, tu felix Namibia reconciliant! Peace and reconciliation are amongst the noblest of earthly aims, but the deluded establishment that rules most of what used to be called the Western world often seem convinced that peace among peoples can only be achieved by erasing the differences between them. Yet it is precisely those differences — the unique characteristics of tribe, clan, and platoon that separate us from some and unite us with others — that make us who we are: human beings, created by God in time and place and circumstance. Without them, we are rootless citizens of nowhere, easily abused and manipulated by the powerful. (How flimsy is even the thickest oak when its roots have been severed). It is the acknowledgement of differences, rather than the erasing of them, that leads to true respect and understanding between and among peoples. While the racial grievance industry thrives in America and Europe, an entirely different attitude exists in happy Namibia. (more…)

March 13, 2011 9:04 pm | Link | 2 Comments »

Interview with the Last July 20 Plotter

Der Speigel speaks with 88-year-old Ewald von Kleist

Ewald von Kleist is the last surviving member of the circle of Wehrmacht officers who participated in the July 20, 1944 plot to kill Hitler and overthrow the Nazi state. Der Spiegel has translated its interview with him into English, and all four pages feature interesting insights from this brave old man.

And if you read German (I don’t), you might be interested in this article on China & Carl Schmitt.

March 6, 2011 9:12 pm | Link | 3 Comments »


The photographs of “Manni” Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn

IT’S A CRACKING photo; the sort of thing guaranteed to irk the puritanical and bring a smile to the good-humoured. The thirteen-year-old Yvonne Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn takes a swig from a bottle while her brother Alexander, just twelve, sits with a half-smoked cigarette. Taken aboard the yacht of Bartholomé March off Majorca in 1955, the photographer was Marianne “Manni” Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn — the mother of Yvonne and Alexander — who’s known by her photographic soubriquet of “Mamarazza”. (more…)

February 14, 2011 8:00 am | Link | 14 Comments »

Europe According to Stereotype

A London-based graphic designer has created a series of maps depicting Europe according to the national stereotypes in the minds of various peoples. Yanko Tsvetkov, a Bulgarian living in Great Britain, created the first one in 2009 in the midst of the energy dispute between Russia and the Ukraine. Russia was labelled “Paranoid Oil Empire”, the Ukraine “Gas Stealers”, and the E.U. as “Union of Subsidized Farmers”. Switzerland was simply “Bank”.

“I created the first one in 2009 because at that time there was an energy crisis in Europe,” Mr. Tsvetkov said. “I just created it to amuse my friends but when I put it up on my website so many people liked it that I decided to really focus on the project of mapping the stereotypes based on different places in Europe. I was surprised by the reaction because I never really expected it to take off like this.” (more…)

September 21, 2010 11:24 am | Link | 42 Comments »

The Blitz was Wrong

In his latest column for the Mail on Sunday, the commentator and Orwell Prize winner Peter Hitchens shares his thoughts on the Blitz — the Luftwaffe’s bombing campaign over London that commenced sixty years ago this month. His comments have special relevance given the previous posts on regarding the immorality of the Hiroshima & Nagasaki bombings, and likewise of the intentional and deliberate targeting of civilian non-combatants. (more…)

September 13, 2010 7:44 pm | Link | 2 Comments »

Libeskind Strikes Again, in Dresden

The controversial starchitect exacts Poland’s revenge on a German city

THE WAR WAS NOT kind to Dresden: the bombers of the Royal Air Force and the U.S. Army Air Force rained destruction on the Saxon capital, reducing much of the city to piles of rubble, and killing thousands upon thousands of innocent women and children in the process. One of the few buildings to survive the cataclysmic and morally reprehensible bombing campaign was the old garrison, which after the war was turned into a military museum.

Poland, whose unprovoked invasion by the Nazis sparked the Second World War, is exacting a curious revenge on neighbouring Germany, however. Daniel Libeskind, the controversial Polish starchitect, is building a monstrous addition to the Dresden Military History Museum that may not be a crime against humanity, but is undoubtedly a crime against architecture. (more…)

July 1, 2010 12:11 pm | Link | 24 Comments »

München: mees bewoonbare stad

Hoeveel kere het ek dit hoor sê? München, die Beierse hoofstad, is die mees bewoonbare stad in die wêreld volgens baie lyste deur talle mense saamgestel. Die meeste kenmerk hierdie status aan die unieke kombinasie van tradisie en moderniteit in die stad. Beiere het ’n balans getref, en die Beierse mense is baie trots op hul land — en tereg! Müncher weißwurst — bedien met mosterd en ’n krakeling — is my gunsteling wors. (Jammer, boerewors! Jou Duitse neef is tops.)

In elk geval, op die webtuis van Monocle tydskrif, Tyler Brûlé het ‘n blik op München en ondersoek waarom en ondersoek waarom het dit so ‘n goeie reputasie. Kliek hier om te kyk.

It is scandalous that in all my travels I’ve never been to any part of Germany, let alone Bavaria, considering how everyone raves about it unceasingly. Once I finally get myself to the other side of the pond permanently, it’s high up on the list of places to visit pronto (alongside the Netherlands and Finland). All in good time, all in good time…

June 24, 2010 8:17 pm | Link | 1 Comment »

“There is no Generation Benedict”

So claims Germany’s Catholic youth leader Dirk Tänzler, who is ‘reserved’ & ‘ambivalent’ about the Pope. Is Tänzler right?

AMIDST THE MEDIA’S attempts to sling mud at Pope Benedict XVI, one of the most prominent Catholic youth leaders in Germany has chimed in with lackluster words about the reigning pontiff. Dirk Tänzler, the head of the BDKJ, the umbrella group of German Catholic youth organizations, gave an interview to Der Spiegel, the prominent weekly news magazine with a circulation of over one million. Asked his verdict of the so-far five years of Pope Benedict’s reign, Tänzler responded with the word “ambivalent”. Contrasting Benedict XVI with John Paul II — a “showmaster” — the BDKJ head said that, despite some good points, “a lot of young people often simply don’t understand him”. “Most have a different idea of how to live their lives than the pope might imagine for them. There is no ‘Generation Benedict.'”

But are Tänzler’s thoughts an accurate reflection of the state of Catholic youth in Germany or elsewhere? Over a million young people travelled to Cologne to experience World Youth Day with the new pontiff in 2005. (The following WYD held in Sydney in 2008, unfortunately offers little comparison given the relative isolation of Australia). Everywhere the Pope has travelled, such as to the Czech Republic last year, or France and the United States in 2008, vast multitudes of youth have greeted him, often waiting hours for the privilege. (more…)

April 11, 2010 9:31 pm | Link | 8 Comments »

Outside Germany, Press Lack Interest in Odenwaldschule Abuse Scandal

Nestled in rustic style buildings amidst the hills of the Odenwald mountains, Germany’s most prominent progressive boarding school has become embroiled in the latest revelation of abuse in German schools. Almost the entire governing board of the Odenwaldschule has resigned after it was revealed that a culture of permissive abuse of schoolchildren was tolerated from 1966 to 1991, involving at least thirty-three victims and eight teachers, and perhaps more. The details of the case are too lurid for reproduction here, but involve the abuse of students by teachers and even a headmaster, as well as tolerating and sometimes encouraging the abuse of students by other students.

The Odenwaldschule was founded in 1910 by Paul and Edith Geheeb as one of the first schools devoted to “progressive education” in Germany. Amongst other novelties of the school, students were divided into “families” that spanned age groups and were headed by a teacher known as the “mother” or “father” of the “family”. Shut down during the Nazi period, it reopened after the war, and became a UNESCO model school in the 1960s. Among its former students is the Green MEP & former student radical Daniel Cohn-Bendit, who admitted in the 1970s to inappropriate contact with kindergarten students before backtracking after his previous comments were brought to light last year. The school’s progressive “holistic” ethos, emphasizing freedom over discipline, continues to this day. For the current 225 students, the cost of a year’s education at the Odenwaldschule is over $27,000, or £17,000.

The revelations are only the latest among many surrounding Catholic, Protestant, secular schools, as well as the schools of Communist East Germany. Outside Germany, however, the mainstream media have only taken an interest in whichever scandals or stories they can link back to Pope Benedict XVI, or, failing that, his brother Fr. Georg Ratzinger. No English-language media from outside Germany have bothered to report on the Odenwaldschule affair, except for the tiniest of mentions in the Guardian on 17 March.

April 11, 2010 9:03 pm | Link | 3 Comments »

Potsdam’s City Palace to be Resurrected

THE OLD STADTSCHLOSS of Potsdam, destroyed by aerial bombing during the Second World War, will rise again next to the Old Market in the Brandenburg capital. The provincial government has decided to rebuild the old Stadtschloss to serve as a home for the Landtag, Brandenburg’s provincial parliament. While it was first conceived of building a modern building on the site, or having some reconstructed façades and others modern, a €20-million donation from the software entrepreneur Hasso Plattner has ensured the façades and massing of the building will follow the outline of the old stadtschloss. The interiors will be simple and modern, and to keep the costs down, much of the finer Baroque detailing of the façades will not be included. “I hope,” Herr Plattner said, “that the necessary compromises do not diminish the great impression overall.” (more…)

April 5, 2010 8:16 pm | Link | 11 Comments »
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