GIANT art project transforms housing block in eastern Germany. 

AN enduring reminder of the communist era, the vast, concrete ''Plattenbau'' tower blocks that surround cities in eastern Germany are usually considered eyesores rather than works of art.

Yet, a new urban culture project in the city of Halle, 170 kms southwest of Berlin hopes to promote  social cohesion by transforming architectural sins into monumental masterpieces.

Adorning the side of one block, a three-dimensional mural in vivid colour depicts an astronaut descending from a satellite like spaceship via wooden ladder held by two men far below him.

In the background is a clear blue sky, giving the illusion that the walls have disappeared. What could be a Pink Floyd album cover is in fact a work called ''Balance Acts'' by the Freiraumgalerie artist and urbanist collective.

The $7.7 million project, which once finished will cover 86,000 square feet of wall space on four buildings, was commissioned by HWG, the housing association responsible for the blocks.

When HWG began the refurbishment in 2018, the idea was to create ''something original with which the residents could identify,'' says association managing director Jurgen Marx.

They enlisted Freiraumgalerie, a collective known in Halle for reviving ageing buildings with vibrant   graffiti, who actively involved locals in the ''Balance Act'' project.

Under communism, the apartments were prized among high-ranking party officials, earning them the nickname ''bigwig blocks''. Now, the residents are more likely to belong to disadvantaged sectors.

 It is estimated that around 40 pc of them are foreigners. That is significant in a region which has seen a rapid rise in support for the far-right AfD party in recent years.

Yet it is hoped that art projects such as the one in Halle can help strengthen community ties.

''When people know each other, everything becomes easier,'' Marx says. Freiraumgalerie's Philipp Kienast agrees.

''When they look at our walls, even if they argue about it or don't like it, it is a good opportunity for people to approach each other and  talk about the art. That is something they would otherwise never have done.'' [AFP]


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