Saturday, July 25, 2015


Traffic lights for pedestrians are different in the States and in Europe. In New York they have changed from Don't Walk and Walk to the big red stopping hand and the walking man in white ... for the illiterate.

The European Union has defined a standard for pedestrian traffic lights based on the traditional colors red and green: a standing and a walking man.

Enter German unification. Suddenly the West was confronted with the East German Ampelmännchen (little traffic-light man).

Some foreign visitors visiting East Berlin after the Wende (German turnaround) interpreted the green Männchen as a marching VoPo (East German police man) while others thought they could recognize a hidden swastika. Nevertheless, studies proved that due to their bigger surface the little traffic-light men are better perceived than their skinny European counterparts. Even so, for new traffic light installations the Ampelmännchen are replaced with the European Standard. And so the little traffic-light man has become a cult figure.

Following the creation of figurines of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Martin Luther, Karl Marx, and Richard Wagner Ottmar Hörl did it again. For the 25th anniversary of Germany's reunification the sculptor revived the walking Ampelmännchen in three dimensions. On October 3, this year's unity celebrations will take place in Frankfurt's Paulskirche, the meeting place of the first elected all-German parliament in 1848. The motto of this year's event is: Grenzen überwinden (overcoming borders).

Naturally, Hörl's little traffic-light men come in green although he created them in red, yellow, and black (Ampel kaput?) too. On the photo his little guys are walking downstairs in the entrance hall of Hesse's Staatskanzlei (state chancellery) in Wiesbaden.

©Staatskanzlei Hessen
This blog would not be complete without mentioning a few gender-neutral traffic lights recently seen in Vienna.

Is the red pedestrian light in the middle an Austrian/German speciality?
Being in love feels like having butterflies in your tummy
(Schmetterlinge im Bauch haben) (©Kronenzeitung).

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