“Ex-Mayor Olaf Scholz’s farewell gift to Hamburg was the future 233-metre-high Elbtower. A nice gesture, but illustrator Christian Wischnewski and author Anja Rützel feel the design proposal looks a bit dull. In their opinion, other prominent Hamburg citizens could scale the heights less yawn-inducingly.”
This standfirst is perhaps not in the tone you would expect from a magazine supported by The City of Hamburg. Granted, it could be more damning, but considering we’re talking about Hamburg’s future tallest building (above) – a project masterminded by famed architect David Chipperfield with, presumably, a price tag to match – these two sentences are not exactly brimming with enthusiasm. Add in some alternative monumental designs, illustrated by Wischnewski (below), and this is a triumph rather than a critique. It is precisely stances of these sorts – humour and a gentle self-mocking – that make Gentle Rain so likeable.
The magazine acts as an insider city guide, aimed at non-German speaking individuals curious about, or perhaps not, visiting Hamburg. It is written and designed by local studio Die Brueder – specialists in editorial design who also organise annual magazine conference, Indiecon – and tells the stories of those who live and work in the city.
As the aforementioned standfirst goes some way to prove, the magazine does not fall victim to tired clichés and gushing accounts – traits often found in publications with a goal to make somewhere or something appeal. Instead it takes a more honest approach and crafts a portrait of the city not through its icons and landmarks, but its people. In this issue there is Tobias Wüstefeld (above), a 3D designer who ‘builds origami islands and crooked huts in virtual reality’; Petra Sommer (below), a set designer who currently resides in a caravan on the outskirts of the city; and a whole community of allotment enthusiasts. Such diversity, coupled with sharp editorial observations, is indicative of a magazine compiled with thought, creativity and intelligence.
Gentle Rain could have so easily been a dull, indistinct magazine: a collection of articles in which locals indulgently brag about their city. To its credit the magazine does the opposite. It accepts that Hamburg – like any other city – is not perfect. In fact, in the issue’s introductory text there is an explicit mention of the presence of “tangible tensions everywhere: between old and new, between culture and commerce, between free space and progress.”
Gentle Rain does not hide away from these realities but allows the character of the city to be demonstrated in the individuals who populate it. Once more it dares to scratch at the surface and tell the stories less told. Its conclusion to the above is apt: “The way an urban society resolves these conflicts defines a city and how we live together in it.”