Wow loves people with strong personalities, adventurous spirit and exotic lifestyles. Our next guest is totally a great adventurer. Passionate for Cuba and Brazil cultures, he lived the Fall of Berlin´s Wall back in 1989 and published his own book – Dialektik der Abklärung.
Ladies and Gentlemen, WOW is pleased to present you Frank Christian Hansel and his spectacular living room. Check out the exclusive interview too!
WOW: What makes this living room be so you Frank, all the different items in the room made me feel a connection with your character even before we started to talk. How do you explain yourself through your living room?
Frank: First of all, I think it is the wonderful architecture of the “Gründerzeit” (founding period of Germany between 1890 and 1910) with the high ceilings, the wooden floor, the ornaments and splendor which simply allowed me to find a very special mix of classic and modern elements and combine paintings, furniture and accessories that way.
I am lucky to be able to have 2 salons, the larger, more representative one for parties where I always welcomed friends and guests, and the other one, more private, for my library and to relax, reading and listening to music. Since I cannot live without books, they actually surround me all over in my apartment. The same happens with the colorful paintings of my friend Roman Betancourt Vila who introduced me into the wonderful world of Cuban life and culture. He died too early in 2005. The handcraft souvenirs are from journeys to Latin America and Africa. All this, I think, creates what you described as a very personal place. This also reflects my taste in music; from Bach to the Romantics up to Gustav Mahler, from Cuban Salsa to Brazilian electronic lounge and chill out.
W: When we had our private conversation, I discovered that you are a person who has more than one professional role… tell us in which different projects are you involved in?
F: This is true. When I was in my last semesters studying Political Science at the Freie Universität Berlin, we experienced the “fall of the Wall” in 1989 and I helped to write the program of the Social Democratic Party for the first freely held municipal elections in the East part of Berlin early 1990. As we won those elections in May 1990, I served as Chief clerk of the Mayor for about a year and afterwards joined the “Treuhandanstalt”, the largest merger acquisition agency of the world in 1991, privatizing the former people’s property, reorganizing the former socialist to a property based on market economy.
Then, in 1993 I went to Havana (Cuba), for the first vacations after 3 years and immediately fell in love with the people, the music and the culture. I chose Cuba as my second home country, which today shares this range together with Brazil which I first visited, however, only in 2007. Back in 1995, I combined personal affinity with professional skills and founded a consulting firm for German investments in Cuba. Back to Your question: As I accompanied a hotel investment project in Havana in 2000 and 2001, the architect responsible introduced me to a Spanish real estate company which then asked me to serve as Country Manager for their German investments, a job which I finished end of this year, having sold all the German assets. Parallel to the responsibility as Asset Manager for Metrovacesa, I have been consulting a large German spirits company in an exclusive importation contract of the Cuban rum branch SANTERO.
For the following years, I plan to focus my network consulting business on Brazil, not neglecting Cuba. However, since there is the hope that once it is possible, due to changes within the country, I would like to help to rebuild this country as I helped in Germany after the Fall of the Wall.
W:What are your roots? And what comes from your home culture to your way of living… how can we see this presence in your living room?
F: In a way I can say that I represent a kind of a German synthesis. My parents come from the northern “Hanse-City” of Bremen. With my brother, an architect living with his family today in Frankfurt, I was born in Wiesbaden, lived in Munich and finally moved to Berlin in 1986. My mother was a gallery owner for some years and I inherited some of her art which combine finely with what I had. My mother’s grandmother lived in London and after World War II she had a house in Bremen and they hosted the first American GIs, living a very tolerant spirit, as my mother told me. And my uncle, mother’s brother, left Germany when he was 19 to Central America and later married his Spanish wife. So I do have half of my family in Spain. But to be honest: I would not be able to tell you what comes from my home culture but would rather want to know where the predominance of Latin culture in my life comes from; probably from former lives…
W: When did you decide to come to Berlin? And why?
F: It was in Salamanca, in a Spanish language summer course in 1985 that I decided to move from Munich to Berlin, being deeply impressed by Madrid, a busy capital whose Gran Vía made me feel I was in New York, at least the New York I expected, without having been there (not until 1993). In Salamanca I met a girl from Berlin and she assured me that Berlin would offer me the complexity I needed to breath. Some months later I moved – and never since regretted it. It was a call of freedom that I heard from Berlin, even if it was still then divided!
I think Berlin is a very special place to be. It really represents freedom in a very existential way. You don’t go to Berlin to get a job, or to get rich or anything like that. In that case you are better off in Frankfurt, Hamburg and, of course, Munich. You go to Berlin, because there is something that calls you, a promise, something individual, very personal. What I saw was: if you learned to cope with 24 hours of complete liberty and freedom of what you can do or don´t do – which, in fact, is not an easy task – you really are a grown person. There are so many desires to be awakened and potentially fulfilled in Berlin such as drugs, sex, and so on. You can either hand into this or you consciously take what you can bear and you prevail. Take what you need and can get, even if it is a bit excessive, but get up the next day and study or work! Freedom combined with responsibility, not for your family, not for your parents or so, but for your own unique self. This is a challenge, a challenge which the European and youth all over the world wants and actually needs to experience. To experiment this in Berlin because is the place to do so. In the beginning of the 21st century, Berlin is the perfect host for the existentialist-libertarians, either if they conscious of it or not; a philosophical position I pointed out in my book “Dialektik der Abklärung”. Or, much more simple, as our Mayor said: “Berlin is poor but sexy”. On the other hand, I think Berlin could and should also be more than this political slogan, an economically competitive metropolis.
W:You have a lovely house located in Schöneberg… tell us, why did you choose this neighborhood?
Schöneberg for me has some mythical elements: Marlene Dietrich dedicated a great love song to Schöneberg, US President JFK, in his famous visit to Berlin during the Berlin crisis in the 60ies, said the words:” Ich bin ein Berliner” from the balcony of Mayor’s office, and, accidentally or not, I simply found my first flat in Schöneberg, in Potsdamer Strasse opposite Kleistpark, in 1986, lived there until 1990, moved to Neukölln and then, consciously came back to Schöneberg in 1995. Schöneberg not only has a great mixture of art bohème and established gay scene people but also, around Victoria Louise Platz, an enlightened and tolerant bourgeois type. Close to my place, there are all the antiques shops and used books stores, all on my way to Saturday’s Winterfeldt market.
W: What do you like the most in Schöneberg? Which are your hotspots in this neighborhood?
F: Whenever we host friends from abroad, on Saturday we take them to Winterfeldtplatz, where there is one of the most beautiful markets of Berlin, all sorts of fresh food, meat and fish, handcraft and flowers. You always meet friends there, have a beer in the “Slumberland” or a Mangolassi in Maaßenstraße’s legendary “Café Berio”. We also go to the close KDW, the continent’s largest department store and have some lunch at its famous and well equipped 6th gourmet floor. A very fine and quiet place which I like to visit is the Schöneberg cemetery in Stubenrauchstrasse where there are located Marlene’s and Helmut Newton’s and also my mother’s grave.
W:You were living in Berlin when all the big movements happened in the 80’s: from Berlin Wall Fall, Cultural Movements, Music to Fashion Moments. How did you experience this movements, Frank?
F: Well, as the years pass by so fast, let me just reflect and remember the strongest impressions I had the last 20 years. Oh my God: 20 years! I almost can’t believe that I already can talk about a personal history! I have already talked about the “Fall of the Berlin Wall” and the possibilities which we all had thereafter and its impact on my personal and professional career. I remember the marvelous event in the exceptional summer of 1995 when Jeanne Claude and Christo packed the Berlin Reichstag, something for us Berliners really great.
Then the 4 “Love Parades” which I did attend from 1997 until 2000, what a party, with an international crowd – not having seen afterwards until the years after 2006, when we had the FIFA World Championship in Germany that finally helped to change the image of the country all over the world. This summer was a sort of the beginning of an almost Mediterranean country, people sitting outside in the cafés until late at night, like in Rome or Madrid, simply amazing. And, you know, what makes me really proud: the Youth is coming to my City, my 21 years old niece came to study Fine Arts in Berlin 2 years ago, my Cousin from Spain works with a renown architect in Berlin, friends of my niece are coming to study here. You hear all languages: Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Polish and Russian, of course, more and more Hebrew; not to mention Turkish and Arabic which belongs to Berlin since the 70ies; and last, but not least, Portuguese from Brazil like you guys: I am sure you made it to Berlin not just for fun… But this, WOW, would be another story…
Once again, thank you so much Frank for this amazing interview and for received us in your lovely house.
Interview by Filipa Mathias
Edition by Filipa Mathias
Photography by Jesus Pastor
Art Concept by Celso da Costa Hamelink