Memorial to the German Members of the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War, Berlin-Friedrichshain

illustrations of the planned artistic annotation, test installation of a 1:1 model and layout

The Concept

An equally old and simple yet effective way to invite people to linger and view something is a bench. Up until now, in the entire space in front of the monument, there has not been a single place for guests to sit and linger. Interested passers-by, who by all means exist, sit either on top of the wall behind the monument site or on the stone stairway, with their backs to the monument. In contrast, the newly created bench invites visitors to linger and, relaxed, to view the monument head on. This inviting effect is heightened by the street lamp installed next to the bench, which begins to illuminate the seating area at dusk.

Yet the monument structure is more than it appears at first glance. When a passer-by approaches the monument site, a short acoustic signal sounds from the direction of the bench (the beginning of a melody; the first sounds of El Himno de Riego - the one-time national anthem of the Spanish Republic). Out of curiosity, the passer-by then comes closer to the bench. Once standing near the bench, another acoustic signal is deployed: an audio compilation. The passer-by takes a seat and begins to listen: Next, information about the monument and its dedication are provided (similar to an audio-guide in a museum). The history of the Civil War and of the International Brigades is told, referencing select images from the relief, which are easily visible directly across from the bench. Slowly but surely - at first undetectable, then ever more clearly - more voices enter the audio compilation (metaphorically speaking: more and more people begin to take a seat at the bench and to provide an account): A woman’s voice tells about the role women played as medics and political ring-leaders, but also as soldiers in the ranks of the brigades. Another voice speaks about motivations for going to Spain. Communists have their say, as do socialists, anarchists, Christians, and artists. The audio compilation, which had originally begun as a monologue, is intensified little by little by a collective experience that is deep and diverse in perspective, that enthralls visitors, and that instills the curiosity to look at the monument more closely on one’s own and to engage independently with the material more intensively.

Bench with Lamp

 test installation of a 1:1 model to show the proportions and the distance to the monument
test installation of a 1:1 model to show the proportions and the distance to the monument

With the bench and lamp, two inconspicuous elements are integrated into the monument structure that could stem from the immediate surroundings, the park. But these are not merely “ready made” objects, pre-fabricated parts. Instead, the idea for the bench and lamp and for their definite shape was developed from an exact analysis of the monument’s composition scheme. The bench is positioned lengthwise in accordance with the horizontal wall behind the monument, in particular. The lamp takes up the form of the Fighter in Spain: the degree of its curve corresponds to the angle between the sword and the body (from the rearmost foot to its foremost hand). On one hand, the lamp and the bench are functional objects that create and invite visitors, as individuals, to a particular space. On the other hand, they are composed with artistic aspects in mind, acting in the service of the cumulative effect of the monument. Together with the memorial tablet in the center and the figure on the right, they form an ascending diagonal (upward, forward = optimistic for the future).


Sound and Technology


The acoustic signals are triggered by two infrared motion sensors and controlled by a specially developed electronic system, thus working to prevent any malfunction. The sensors do not react to objects or animals, only to humans. The direction/range in which they react is precisely defined. A volume control function/time clock ensures that the acoustic signals are triggered only in small increments and that residents in the surrounding area are not disturbed. All technological components are extremely durable and are not sensitive to temperature changes (to hot or cold). Should a problem occur, components can be simply and inexpensively swapped out. Power is supplied via a solar module mounted a few meters away. This saves on maintenance costs. By request, it can be equipped with a protective grille to ward off vandalism. The installation of a small informational plaque in the remaining monument area, informing visitors about the sound installation and its purpose, is also possible.


Dr. Benno Hinkes


Further information on the audio compilation can be found at: