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8,000 Glowing Orbs Will Trace Route of Berlin Wall

The "Lichtgrenze," or light border will retrace the route of the Berlin Wall, which fell 25 years ago this weekend.
The "Lichtgrenze," or light border will retrace the route of the Berlin Wall, which fell 25 years ago this weekend.

Walking the streets of Berlin today, it’s easy to forget the Berlin Wall once sliced the city in two, effectively imprisoning half the city’s population.

Countless construction cranes spike the skyline, and in most places, the wall’s scars have healed over. Berlin, which is still defining itself, is known as “poor, but sexy,” a phrase coined by the city’s mayor, Klaus Wowereit.

This weekend, when the city marks the 25th anniversary of the fall of the wall, two Berlin-based artists, Marc and Christopher Bauder, will resurrect an ephemeral art installation tracing where the wall brutally cleaved the German capital.

“Now, it’s hard to follow where you are in relation to the former wall,” said Christopher Bauder. “There are some markers on the ground, but it’s easy to lose track. We thought it would be a good idea to mark the original, to bring it back for a moment for people who’ve never experienced the wall.”

The “Lichtgrenze,” or light border, will consist of 8,000 illuminated, helium-filled orbs tethered to thin poles over a 15-kilometer stretch that passes Berlin landmarks, including the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag parliament building, Potsdamer Platz and Checkpoint Charlie.

“It’s made of air and light,” said Bauder, who was 15 when the wall fell. “It’s something very ephemeral as opposed to the massiveness of the original.”

The Lichtgrenze will trace the former wall as accurately as possible.

“Sometimes, [the installation] runs along the outer wall, sometimes along the inner wall, and sometimes in the ‘death strip,’” said Bauder.

The death strip was a wide area between the walls that was filled with obstructions and manned by armed guards with orders to shoot anyone trying to escape the former East Germany.

The light border does not trace the former wall perfectly, said Bauder, because new buildings made it impossible to exactly recreate the route.

The Lichtgrenze, which is currently being installed, will light up on Friday and remain lit for three days. On Sunday the biodegradable balloons will be released and float away. Attached to the balloons are messages from people who wanted to contribute.

The notes contain a lot of personal stories and remembrances of the wall, said Bauder

According to the Berlin Wall Memorial, 138 people were killed at the wall between 1961 and 1989.

Here's a short video on the Lichtgrenze: