02/09/2011 04:14 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Mad For Munich: State Of The Arts In Berlin's Sister City

Often touted as the pretty but conservative sister of the much sexier Berlin, Munich fails to generate the same kind of buzz that its edgier sibling does. But I'd argue for visitors to reconsider: Munich's demure looks belie its creative personality.

I was looking forward to heading back to Munich. Only in October had interviewed 2010 Design Miami's Designer of the Year Konstanin Grcic for a global exclusive with the Huffington Post. While the rest of the team was now en route to Berlin to cover the city's vibrant art scene, I was on my way to Munich to film a city profile.

Upon touch down, the 'world's biggest village' presented itself regally, with its crisp weather and with much of its historic elegance still intact. Whereas Berlin is a heaving cocktail of old and new due for the most part to wartime bombing, Munich has been restored to its former glory. The effect is that the Bavarian capital exudes an imposing aura, a severe beauty that does not at all hint of artists at work in studio warehouses, or of a wild nightlife scene.

True enough, cafés and bierkellers are abound, blissfully uncrowded, almost empty. However, I opted to look behind the pristine exterior to discover the city's true character.

Dazzled by the views of the Alps from Neues Rathaus, I tried very hard not to be lured by the Bavarian delicacies from the Viktualienmarkt, and decided that the best way to know a city is to meet its people and creatives.

DESIGN - Mirko Borsche

Our first stop was graphic designer Mirko Borsche's studio in Mariahilf Strasse. The creative director of the German newspaper Die Zeit and Die Zeit Magazine in Munich, Borsche's credentials range from the corporate such as Audi to the quirky like Gomma and Modular Records.

Set over two floors, Borsche's studio is a massive but decidedly organised space with a mezzanine housing two rooms filled with shelves of magazines and books. Downstairs, overlooking a balcony is where all the design happens - his young, trendy team did not seem like they were from the usual Munich stock, as they all looked like they had stepped out of an ad for American Apparel.

The repertoire of their work is impressive and varied - from magazines for the Bavarian State Opera to an installation for Audi at Design Miami 2010.

While it's not exactly a place where you can just come in to knock back a lager beer, Borsche insists that they've always welcomed passers-by coming in to have a look at their work - they might even offer you a cup of tea. For more on Bureau Mirko Borsche: null

FASHION - Ayzit Bostan

To sample Munich's fashion offerings, I visited fashion and accessories designer Ayzit Bostan at her studio in Landwehr Strasse. Tucked away in a side street, the Turkish-born designer's studio lends itself to a quiet and concentrated work life. Bostan believes that it is this detachment from the chaos of city life that allows her to create her minimalist and elegant creations with such a free and untroubled hand. Her iconic 'I Love' and Mickey Mouse sweaters, and collaboration with German bag company Bree are all must-haves. Curiously for a fashion designer, Ayzit prefers Munich to the more bustling Berlin as its calm pace allows her to work with intensity and freedom.


ART - Dr Stephan Urbaschek of Sammlung Goetz

Slightly off the beaten track is the private gallery Sammlung Goetz in Oberföhringer Strasse. Situated in park-like premises, the gallery sits in harmony with surrounding birch trees and conifers. Designed by the Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron, it is home to collector Ingvild Goetz's eclectic collection of paintings, photography and video projections by artists like Cy Twombly, Bruce Nauman and Nan Goldin. I met up with Dr Stephan Urbaschek, Sammlung Goetz's Head of Exhibitions and Media Art to talk art and architecture. Sitting on the ground floor of the stunning building was a treat as we watched from the glazed windows, snow blanketing the permanent installations. null

En route to my next appointment with former punk activist and baker Armin Stegbauer, it dawned on me that Munich just doesn't get enough credit for its surprising, offbeat charm. Stegbauer, the owner of Café Kubitscheck had not too long ago commissioned local design firm Design Liga to revamp his quirky old-fashioned patisserie. Situated in the vibrant, creative quarter around Gollier Strasse, Café Kubitscheck fit in well into the eclectic mix of cafes, restaurants and bars around the surrounding area and nearby Holz Strasse. Munich, so it seems, has a creative pulse all of its own, and is equally as exciting as its glamorous sister, Berlin.

Trisha Andres is Editor of

Watch out next month for my column on New York.