The Urania World Time Clock
Prof. Erich John
In the course of the redesign of Alexanderplatz on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the GDR, the designer Prof. Erich John developed the Urania World Time Clock at the end of 1968. Under his direction, it was built within just a few months together with 124 volunteer workers in so-called after-work brigades and inaugurated on September 30, 1969 on Berlin's Alexanderplatz by the mayor of East Berlin, Herbert Fechner.
Today, its rotunda displays the names of 146 cities from all continents and time zones, as well as the date line. The current local time or world time in all time zones can be read simultaneously on the basis of the rotating number circle in the center of the clock. Above everything rotates the planetary system, which symbolizes the basics of our time measurement through the course of the planets.
With its original 80 city names from all 24 time zones, the world time clock already demonstrated to the citizens of the GDR on a daily basis how vast the world was beyond the GDR borders. Even then, its designer Prof. Erich John recognized the symbolic power for freedom in stark contrast to the Berlin Wall, which was built in 1961: "Many felt the narrowness of the city since the Wall was built, the impression of cosmopolitanism and worldliness was obviously a touching thought through a world time clock."
To this day, the World Time Clock at the Alex is a popular meeting place for Berliners and guests from all over the world alike. In the vicinity of the clock gathered not only on the occasion of the X. World Youth Games in the summer of 1973, but also on October 7, 1989, thousands of opposition activists set out with the famous words "We are the people" in the direction of the Palace of the Republic, where the state leadership was celebrating the 40th anniversary of the GDR. Only 33 days later, the borders were opened and the Berlin Wall fell.
Since 2015, the Berlin World Time Clock has been a listed building due to its outstanding artistic, urban planning and historical significance.
Since November 2018, for the first time in its history, the World Time Clock has been available as a contemporary landmark and unique design icon - just in time for the 50th anniversary - as a collector's item and souvenir.
Professor Erich John
On February 6, 1932, Erich John was born in the northern Bohemian village of Kartitz, where his parents ran an agricultural farm until the family was expropriated and expelled in 1945. After an apprenticeship as a building fitter in Neukloster, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, the gifted draftsman began studying artistic blacksmithing and metal design in Wismar and Heiligendamm at the age of 18. He completed his subsequent studies in form design - comparable to today's industrial and product design - in 1958 at the renowned Kunsthochschule in Berlin-Weißensee, where he himself trained generations of designers as a lecturer from 1965 and as a professor from 1973 to 1992. In 1982 he is appointed as a visiting professor for "Industrial Design" at Ohio State University (USA) for one semester and receives the Design Award of the GDR.
Erich John's works are still considered unsurpassed in functionality and design today. During his award-winning career, John developed countless products that were used as everyday objects for decades in the GDR, but also in so-called "western countries" such as the FRG and Scandinavia. His products include the "Erika" typewriter, the "Undine II" radio, vacuum cleaners and razors, as well as microscopes for biology classes and the "Galilean cutlery" - modular binoculars.
For John, design means the "optimization of living space. Probably his most famous work has left its mark on the center of Berlin since 1969 as a unique landmark: the Urania World Time Clock on Alexanderplatz. With it, he has succeeded in shaping the future of the cityscape in a lasting way.
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