A highly effective work of political street art in the heart of Alexanderplatz, Berlin, this enormous blood-red “STOP WARS” slogan has been recently refreshed after fading. The message was undoubtedly on the minds of the hundreds who were gathered here in the plaza yesterday to protest Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Abstract, it is not.
The eight letter scream hovers above the corner of Otto-Braun-Strasse and the cars, bicycles, trams, and pedestrians who course by in this commercial and governmental district. Unpolished and urgent high above on the top 3 floors, no message could be clearing, or more of a draw for tourists who snap it and share.
The former Haus der Statistik (House of Statistics) between 1968 and 2008, it has been abandoned ever since, according to locals. Naturally it has been a magnet for urban explorers and graffiti writers – even though its proximity to the police station is close. Now a consortium of public and private interests are supposed to be conjuring plans for the 65,000 square meter building that will engage the arts, culture, social, and housing needs, but you know how long that can take in Western societies.
The sentiment that roars across the top of this gleaming white modernist box is as timely right now as ever. An urgent response to this modern era of continuous wars bolstered by a profitable war industry, the danger here on Berlin streets feels more palpable as well.