German novelists on the fall of the Berlin wall: It was a source of energy we lived off for years

Five German novelists recall the heady days of 30 years ago, and assess their legacy Heike Geissler: For the first few years, I fell into every single consumer trap put in my way Heike Geissler was born in 1977 in Riesa in the former German Democratic Republic. She is the author of four novels, most recently Red Love: The Story of an East German Family, won the European Book prize. Germans like anniversaries; they give such a clear shape to history. At these times you can simplify complicated things a bit, smooth out the contradictions. The GDR, which repeatedly comes back to life on these dates, long ago became a kind of museum country. These days hardly anybody wants to …

Former Yugoslavia’s brutalist beauty a photo essay

Socialist Yugoslavia reconstructed a land destroyed by fighting with concrete to show the power of a state between eastern and western power Genex Tower is unmissable on the highway from Belgrade airport to the centre of the city. Its two soaring blocks, connected by an aerial bridge and topped with a long-closed rotating restaurant resembling a space capsule, are such an unusual sight, the 1977-build tower has become a magnet for tourists despite years of neglect. The tower is one of the most significant examples of brutalism an architectural style popular in the 1950s and 1960s, based on crude, block-like forms cast from concrete. Serbia. Brutalism was popular throughout the eastern bloc but the former Yugoslavia made it its own …

How Extinction Rebellion put the world on red alert

The radical group has galvanised young and old. But in the year since it formed, what has life been like inside the movement? In the last week alone, members of Extinction Rebellion have been described as ecoradicals ignoring our economic doom (Times), a bloody mess (Daily Telegraph). They have been accused of tried to paint the Treasury red using 1,800 litres of fake blood and an old fire engine with a sign reading stop funding climate death. While its actions may seem controversial in some quarters, Extinction Rebellions rise and influence have undoubtedly been extraordinary, galvanising young and old across party lines. Last October, the journalist and activist George Monbiot introduced the group in the national press, a homegrown movement …

Zaha Hadids massive starfish airport opens in Beijing

Daxing international, said to be worlds largest single-building terminal, to handle 72m passengers China has opened a vast, multibillion-dollar airport in the countrys capital, in the run-up to a major political anniversary. Less than five years after construction began, the 450bn yuan (50bn) Daxing international airport was officially opened on Wednesday in a ceremony attended by the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping. China is preparing to celebrate its National Day on 1 October, marking 70 years since the founding of the Peoples Republic of China, against the backdrop of unrest in Hong Kong and a flagging economy. People attending the launch ceremony for the new Beijing Daxing international airport in Beijing. Photograph: STR/AFP/Getty Images The new mega-airport, the second in Beijing, …

Sardine tins for the poor?: Barcelona’s shipping container homes

Just a stones throw from La Rambla, the Spanish city is building 12 shipping container flats to help tackle its social housing crisis Barcelona has begun installing its first unsuitable and unsafe, and residents have said they are cramped, stiflingly hot in summer, and too cold in winter. The total cost of the scheme in Barcelona is 940,000 (840,000). We can deliver an apartment in a year while a traditional building takes six to eight years to reach completion, says Tonet Font of the citys social innovation department. Work is expected to be completed by the end of October. Nasibah Yagoub, 21, with her son outside a shipping container development being used for homeless families in Hanwell, Ealing. Photograph: Chris …

Brave new world: the search for peace after the second world war

The United Nations was created out of the horrors of the second world war, writes the Observers chief political commentator At the end of the second world war there was no guarantee that it would not be followed swiftly by a third. Six years of the most intensely murderous and geographically spread conflict in the history of the human species had left unprecedented devastation. From Normandy to Ukraine, vast areas of Europe had been pulverised by aerial bombing and ravaged by savage ground fighting. The landscape was a ruination of flattened homes, wrecked factories and fallow farms. Great swathes of Asia, especially China, had suffered appallingly. Up to 85 million souls had lost their lives; more millions had been displaced. …

My daughter was raised during the siege of Aleppo. I had to make a film for her

For Sama, a new documentary from award winning Syrian journalist Waad al-Kateab has won global acclaim The camera focuses on Samas face. She is the sweetest baby and looks, at first glance, as though her life might be ordinary. Her eyes are a transitory newborn colour, greyish green, waiting to turn brown. Her gold earrings look over-large in her tiny ears. Sama means sky in Arabic a sky, as her mother imagines it, where no bombs fall, with ordinary clouds and sunshine. So far, this is footage that could be the work of any doting parent, but Samas mother is journalist Waad al-Kateab and this is her documentary For Sama, filmed during the Syrian war. In the film al-Kateab sings …

Global trade disruption is a symptom of a deeper malaise | Mohamed El-Erian

Resolving US-China trade war is not enough to ward off what many fear is a looming worldwide recession It is only a matter of time until the escalating tensions between China and the US prompt many more economists to warn of an impending global economic recession coupled with financial instability. On 5 August, Bloomberg News Larry Summers, a former US treasury secretary who was also closely involved in crisis-management efforts in 2008-09, recently The Only Game in Town, all of these recent developments and also, of course, the growing US-China tensions are related in a meaningful way to two basic and persistent features of the global economy since the 2008 financial crisis. The first is the prolonged period in which …

New cities in the sand: inside Egypts dream to conquer the desert

Four decades ago Egypt embarked on the most ambitious new cities building programme in the world. Their boom shows no sign of stopping Seen from space, Africa. This week Guardian Cities meets the 90-year-olds who built the Bulgarian city of Dimitrovgrad after the second world war (many still live there) and visits the bizarre Bahria Town development promising Karachi residents protection from terror attacks and violent crime. We look at Hong Kongs plan to build artificial islands for 1.1 million people and examine Egypts dream to conquer the Sahara. We remember past visions of future cities and ask, is there ever a good reason to start a city from scratch? Nick Van Mead Was this helpful? Thank you for your …

Which is the world’s most vertical city?

You might think of Hong Kong, given its famous skyscraper skyline, but by different measures of verticality other cities come out on top Looking out from sky100, Hong Kongs highest observation deck on the 100th floor of the citys tallest building, the 494-metre-high International Commerce Centre, you get a 360-degree view of one of the worlds most famous skylines an urban jungle framed by mountains and the gleaming Victoria harbour, with endless clusters of high-rise buildings packed so closely together they resemble a game of Tetris. Its little wonder a city of such visible density has more skyscrapers than anywhere else in the world. According to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), Hong Kong has 355 buildings …

David Chipperfield’s Berlin temple: ‘Like ascending to the realm of the gods’

Twenty years in the making, this dazzling synthesis of the classical and modern takes Museum Island to new heights Friedrich Wilhelm IV described his vision for James Simon Gallery stands as a 134m (120m) Parthenon-on-Spree, forming a handsome new entrance to one of the worlds most important repositories of cultural treasures. We were quite nervous, says Chipperfield, standing in the lofty new ticketing lobby, where stripes of sunlight flood in between the row of slender white columns outside. The challenge was how to create something that was of its context and also of our time, in this incredibly sensitive location. He had good reason to be anxious. His first design, unveiled in 2006, was slammed by German critics as grossly …

Punk hellraiser Lydia Lunch: ‘I’m chronically misunderstood but I get off on it’

The runaway, singer and counter-culture icon is hitting 60 and is as incendiary as ever, touring and raging against polluters and politicians in a rip-roaring book Lydia Lunch turned 60 this year, but age has done little to dim this counterculture icons lust for life. Decades after her start as the nihilist 16-year-old frontwoman of 1970s no-wave band Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, the New York-born apocalyptician is a revered veteran of the US underground: a writer, spoken-word performer, musician, actor and artist. Lunchs style is raw and incendiary, all sex and death and taboo-busting feminist rage. And in 2019, the sexagenarian is as unapologetic and active as ever still writing, touring, collaborating and performing. Lunch is in Colchester when …

Ethiopia coup attempt leaves regional leader dead reports

General reported as being behind armed attempt to seize power in Amhara state The chief of staff of Ethiopias army was shot dead in his own home by his bodyguard and a regional governor was killed when a general tried to seize control of a northern state in an attempted coup, the prime ministers office has said. The Amhara state president, Ambachew Mekonnen, and his adviser were shot dead and the states attorney general was wounded in Amharas capital, Bahir Dar, on Saturday evening, according to a statement from the office of the prime minister, Abiy Ahmed. In a separate attack on the same night, Ethiopias army chief of staff, Gen Seare Mekonnen, and another retired general were shot dead …

Unbuilt Tokyo: ‘depthscrapers’ and a million-person pyramid

Had the creators of the underground skyscraper had their way, the Japanese capital might have looked very different indeed Protected by cylindrical walls of reinforced concrete, the steel and glass depthscrapers extend hundreds of metres underground. Only a single floor of each inverted 35-storey skyscraper is visible at ground level. Giant mirrors mounted directly above the central wells reflect sunlight to the apartments below. Prismatic glass ensures even light throughout the day, while fresh, conditioned air is pumped down from the surface. The whole structure, in case of an earthquake, will vibrate together, resisting any crushing strain, declared a 1931 edition of Everyday Science and Mechanics that called the design the product of the best engineering brains of Japan. The …

Italy’s new ruins: heritage sites being lost to neglect and looting

Overgrown and weathered, many historical monuments are disappearing as public funds for culture fail to match modern Italys inheritance Legend has it that the grotto hidden among the craggy cliffs on San Marco hill in Sutera in the heart of Sicily holds a treasure chest full of gold coins. In order to find it, three men must dream simultaneously about the precise place to dig. Treasure or no treasure, the grotto itself is an archaeological gem, its walls adorned with a multi-coloured Byzantine-esque 16th-century fresco depicting Jesus, the Virgin Mary and Saints Paulinus, Luke, Mark and Matthew. One of the first mountain oratories in the world, it was built by Basilian monks in the 9th century. But time has weathered …

IM Pei: an audacious daredevil who built the impossible

From his provocative Louvre pyramid to his inverted wedge for Dallas, the Chinese-American architect was too modern for his time but his angular marvels look perfect now So bold were IM Peis designs, they were often regarded as wilfully controversial, designed to shock. But Pei himself never saw it like that. He was possibly the last living link to such founders of modernism as Bauhaus stalwarts Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer, all of whom he met. He carried their torch, abiding by their principles and adding flourishes of his own usually too many for the general public. To those modernist foundations of proportion, simplicity, geometry, Pei added audacious angles and structural daring. The result is a body of work that …