The Wall was built up, and continues being up in the minds of many people. It is part of their history, and the development of Berlin is very much marked by this wall. This wall or the remains of it, shows up today like a screen-exhibition for artists, it is the "Gallery of the East side" created after the fall of the Communist Regime and where regrettably nowadays the paintings are in clear deterioration.

 The historical city, divided into east and west by the wall and today still continues practically with this same division, keeping big buildings like those left in inheritance by Schinkel. Examples of clasicism do not lack, one of them is the Schauspielhaus Theatre, built by Schinkel between 1918 and 1921. The building was built in the place where previously had existed a theatre before its burning, built by Langhans. Schinkel designed it maintaining the old external wall and the arcade with columns (demanded by the king) and an inner space was also built added to the previous one used as concert hall. The result was brillant, a staircase to get to the Ionic arcade at the entrance, with statues and crowned in their central part with sculptures, creating a majestic facade, being the central element of the square. Inside, we find in the north, the functional rooms; in the south the Auditory (redesigned in 1904 in Baroque style) and in the middle: the Theatre, for 1200 spectators. After the war it was faithfully reconstructed but the inside was re-drawn placing an only auditory for 1850 spectators, The "Konzerthaus Berlin".

This building is in the same square flanked by the French Church (by Louis Cayart) in the north, and the German church (by Martin Grünberg) in the south. Both of them have already existed since 1701. The domes, similar in both buildings, were built among 1780 and 1785, ordered by Friedrich the Great perhaps following as example the square of Popolo in Rome.

Several channels exist in Berlin, crossing the city. At a point, the river Spree, forms the so called ‘Island of the Museums’, a place created for the Art and Science. There it is the Altes Museum by Schinkel (1825-30), in the north side of a wide garden. It has a rectangular form containing two interior patios and a central rotunda with double height that rises over the rest of the building. The south facade facing onto the garden, is covered all along with an arcade of Ionic columns, and behind, a wall opens up only in its central part (occupying the space among six columns) giving way to the hall where two imposing staircases oppose each other to get to the upper floor.

Also present in the island of the museums is the Neues Museum (first museum-building designed explicitly for exhibitions, especially Egyptian collections and soon under reconstruction by David Chipperfield), behind the Altes Museum, and the Alte Nationalgalerie by August Stüler and Heinrich Strack (1866-76). The Alte Nationalgalerie has the shape of an old temple in Corinthian style with a high base and double staircase to come in, so that it is easily viewed from many points of the city. Behind the eight columns of the arcade at the entrance: a wall with paintings representing the history of the development of German Art; and on one side, among the half columns embedded to the wall: exhibition boards with the names of German artists.

The last building in the island of the museums is the Pergamon Museum, built between 1912 and 1930 by Ludwig Hoffmann under a project of Alfred Messel ( he died before starting construction), to house the many collections of antique works. Hoffmann adapted the heavy Baroque style of the building projected by Messel to classic shapes, forming a transition to the architecture of the Neues Museum and Altes Museum.

This is the Berlin of the Museums (in the East), and near this island of the culture is the street market (a bazaar of second hand books, cloths, sheets, ...) It is the Berlin that reminds us the order, the organization in a city with long avenues and large green areas, and patios with gardens ... signs of quality.

Near the Altes Museum, The Berlin Cathedral, with a history that goes back to almost the Middle ages. At the beginning a small chapel, then a church, and later on, after many projects, it was built under a design by Julius Raschdorff (1894-1905). Under suggestion from Emperor Wilhelm II it reduced its shape and it was strongly criticized ( style, liturgy and acoustics). The dimensions of the Church are 114x73 metres. Originally the dome (75 meters heigh) and the four towers of corner had an elaborated decoration, buy it was strongly damaged in 1944. One can consider both the Cathedral and the Reichstag like the main works of the Baroque in Wilhelm time (although the Cathedral is neo-Renaissance in its shape), mainly due to its size and shape.

The Reichstag, the powerful symbol of the German 20th century, built by Paul Wallot (1884-94) after surviving the war, was covered, and restored. Its interior was re-designed to adapt it to congresses and the German parliament’s new uses (two interior patios and in the center: the meeting room) and a new debate grew the attention on the dome. Decision: A new dome under a design of Norman Foster (1994-99), accessible to the public, with a restaurant on the base and a terrace at level of the cover of the building. At the same time it will give natural light and ventilation to the devate room beneath. The building has two squared towers on its corners and a central arcade of columns with staircase and covered with a triangular fronton facing onto the Tiergarden.

Also facing onto the tiergarden, but from another perspective, is the Brandenburg Gate, the most known symbol of the cold war that has remained, due to the war and the Wall, as an isolated monument. Designed by Carl Gotthard Langhans (1789-1791) it reminds the Athenian Propileos. The Gate has five openings of 11 m. separated by walls ending in doric columns. On top, a quadriga crowns with the goddess Victoria (symbol of peace and cultural abundance). Originally, around the Gate, the Pariser Platz had prestigious buildings, being a strategic point in the city, placed at the end of the long avenue: Unter den Linden. After the reunification, and after many debates about the square (whether it should be reconstructed as originally with the traffic passing through the Brandenburg Gate, or it should be constructed a roundabout and the traffic would circulate around it as in the Arch of Victory in Paris). Finally, it was decided to keep the original lines of the square and the buildings inside, with few exceptions although the styles in the buildings could be changed.

Beyond the Gate, the Tiergarden, a green and inmense area with trees, zoo, leisure areas, and without forgeting the paths for pedestrians and ways for bicycles. Berlin is a city of services, highly modern and developing according to the European philosophies of being sensible to the enviroment. It has developed along the whole city and parallelly to the sidewalks, their ways for bicycles, including traffic lights and signs, so that it is possible to arrive to any point of the city by means of this non poluting transport. It is a true pleasure and not expensive, (5,23 €/day) enjoying this city with its apples of stone or iron and glass; green areas; its bohemian atmospheres, modernist, clasic... and its urban types and "squatter" artists with their premises.

We have areas to enjoy the traditional German atmosphere as the Nikolai Quarter. This is the medieval center in Berlin, and it is probably the jewel of the city, where we can find the the "Bear" of Berlin. During the 750 anniversary of the city (1987), it was determined to reconstruct this part of the city, keeping its historical meaning, so that it served as a reference to the original state and the tradition of Berlin. The Nikolaikirche Church, patron saint of the Merchants was restored the most faithfully way possible. It is the first and most important parish church in Berlin, and around it copies of old buildings were built up, including old pubs of Berlin, shops and typical German restaurants. The achieved results are right and contrast with the rest of the city. It is worthy visiting.

We also have other bohemian areas, as the atmosphere created in the premises built under the rails of the train (that cross over the city), some are charming, bohemian; others, modern and elegant. And another areas to escape from daily stress, as the Orainburguer Strasse, with premises with atmosphere, restaurants by the light of the candles, gay or Jewish atmosphere, everything seen with the eyes of a tourist that is sorrounded by a magic halo. The historical train stations with Art Decó, coloring in the facades, designer shops, channels, gardens, the Jewish quarter, traces of "squatters"... everything contributes to add charm to the city. 

A city that does not separate itself from the past. On the other side, in the middle of the so called west, the Ku`dam, remains of the slaughter, of the bombing. Its center keeps the ruins of a church half destroyed (one can still hear the planes flying over Berlin). And there, on one side, the group chapel-tower, built for a religious function, now displaced. Its style is totally opposed and highly criticized, taking into account a total demolition of the church.

 Other buildings in the present Berlin are:

The Red City Hall, named after its facade of red bricks, was built by Hermann Friedrich Waesemann between 1861 and 1869. With neo-Renaissance elements, three interior patios and a great central tower (that reminds of the Cathedrals in Laon and Naumburg for its treatment with columns in its corners), it leaves the classicism style post-Schinkel and sets up a different style in architecture with appearance of strengh. The building is crowned with a balustrade and its facade contains drawings of terra cotta about the history of Berlin. At the moment, it is used by the Senate of Berlin.  

An example of the Baroque in the city is the Charlottenburg Palace, built between 1695 and 1699 by Johann Arnold Nering and Martin Grünberg, and enlarged in different phases. It shows a huge facade facing onto the garden and the interior design of the lateral wings is, no doubt, in Rococo style. The main building (strongly damaged during the Second World War, now rebuilt) is used as Museum. The complex is made up of other smaller buildings estrategically placed along the garden such as Belvedere (the tea house , at the moment, Museum of Porcelain) and the Schinkel Summerhouse. In the complex there is also a Theatre, built in 1787-91 by Carl Gotthard Langhans.

The neogothic Bridge, built in 1896 of brick, shows an elegant solution for a modern means of transport at that time (train) and also a road for cars. It symbolizes the East way in towards the historical center of Berlin. It "has suffered" from different changes throughout its life, the last one in 1996 by Santiago Calatrava, linking the former structure by means of a central arch of steel.

The modern city, with the new works and the new image of Berlin in the 21st century, includes works like the Jewish Museum by architect Daniel Libeskind, a building that sums up the history of the jewish community in Berlin. An alive document, an interpretation building with some basic ideas:

 

- The impossibility of understanding the history of the city without knowing the great intelectual, economic and cultural contribution of the jews.
- The need to incorporate the meaning of the Holocaust, psychicly and spiritually, into the memory of Berlin.
- The history of Berlin, even of Europe, is understood along with the lack of jewish life in Berlin.

The museum comprises three main parts, each one with its meaning: the Holocaust; the exterior garden: the exile; and the emigration (with sloping floor, the author achieves to cause a desorientation for a moment). It is linked, only underground, to the Museum of Berlin. The walls of reinforced concrete, with their elongated windows and the faint lights, contribute to the staging of the atmospheres required by the architect.

The Alexanderplatz became the most important commercial and traffic center in the east area in Berlin in 1882, when the S-bahn train station was built, area also improved thanks to placing there the main market in 1886 and the station underground in 1913. Behrens is awarded in a contest with part of the buildings in a square with great influence on the large amount of people that passes by (shops, restaurants, offices,...). Damaged during the war, the square from 1960 on, took back its shape, but it would lose character as it was excessively increased. Buildings were built around in different phases, such as Hotel Forum, 123 meter high. In 1969 the clock of the world was built, main meeting point. A contest took place to demolish a great part of the buildings and to build 13 towers (Hans Kollhoff). In spite of the uncertainty about its carrying out, one can state that this is the most monumental urban interior square in Germany.

The Telecommunication Tower (1965-69) is a landmark in the city and can be seen from any part in Berlin. The right place to go up to admire and watch the city for a moment, just the time to take the decision on the next place to visit. It is said that the height of 365 meter was chosen to match the number with the days in a year so that children could easily remember it. It is the second highest tower in Europe behind the one in Moscow. The tower is made of concrete up to 250 meter high and crowned by a great sphere of seven floors covered by 140 segments of stainless steel that produce reflections of light with the solar rays.

In the middle of this development, we find the "Postdamer Platz" playing a main role. In its golden time, back to 1920, meant the heart of the city Berlin. Devastated during the war, Berlin is divided and two important places come up: Alexanderplatz in the East; and Ku’damm in the West. After the fall of the Wall the square will recover its outstanding role.

By means of a contest of ideas and big sales representatives (Sony, A+T and Mercedes-Benz bought most of the lots) the area is again coming alive. The architects Helmut Jahn, Giorgio Grassi and Renzo Piano, among others, are in charge of the works. A new underground station is built linked to the already existing train stations, even a fabrik of concrete is built to supply the demand in these lots in the Postdamer Platz.

SOLAR A+T

SOLAR SONY

SOLAR BENZ

 

Publicity campaigns of great span were carried out, and the Info-box in Leipziger Platz was built. It is a large red containter, 1000m² exhibition area, that informs about the works and buildings under construction in Postdamer Platz. Although this building was designed to be easily dissambled, and moved once its aim was fulfilled, now it is being considered the possibility of leaving it there as a multifunctional building or even as a work of art.

 Most of the buildings in Postdamer Platz are offices, although cinemas, restaurants, shops and residential buildings have also been built to avoid the possible desert-like appearance after 6pm due to the lack of people around.

The proyect by Sony may be the most outstanding one for being a large exterior elliptic space covered by a great dome of fiberglass. The buildings housing leisure activities, work and homes stand up around it. 

Many buildings are part of this new Berlin of the 21st century, such as the Fhilharmonc by Hans Scharoun (1960-1963). Its shapes come along in a dinamic way and is covered by yellow aluminium panels (enlarged in 1980).

When designing the Neue Nationalgalerie, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1965-68), subordinated the purpose to the form (because the use may change, but the buildings must last many years). The architect, after his motto: "less is more", uses simple shapes, clear steel structures, great glass panels and a neutral use. Structure or engineering considerations are adapted to his artistic intentions, that is, eight steel supports, whose parts remind the classic columns: the capitals are now the joining point with the cover (a great prefabricated cover of considerable tonnage in squares 3,60 m and 65 m long). Other elements in this building are the hall: 8,5 m high, interior free from columns, the terrace. Underneath are placed another part of the Museum and the stores. All of them showing a clear and neat architecture.

The Palace of the Republic is a building surrounded by politic controversies. It was built between 1973 and 1976 on the lot, where the former Palace stood. It was demolished after the war for ideological reasons. It is a pure functional building with an structural framework of steel covered with white marble and mirror-glass supported by aluminiumwork. The controversy was not caused by the architecture, but by the symbolic content of the building: symbol of the GDR, headquarter of the communist party and meeting point of the first Government in East-Germany chosen democratically in 1990.

 

The new urban plan in Berlin provokes temptations to recreate the past, coming down most of them, building blocks with patios quite worthy. The coexistence among the former buildings and the modern ones is a reality in Berlin and beyond surprising, its dinamism, variety in its facades and its colours dazzle. The international contest IBA, mainly the one in 1979, helping to develop experimental residence centers in the 80s, helped to carry on that development in the plan of a renewed Berlin with relatively small projects. That meant the beginning of the Post-modernism in Berlin with buildings that try to innnovate. Sometimes they get the right decision, but more than once they are criticized. We mean already know architectures internationally such as Siza, Taut, Rob Krier, Aldo Rossi, Peter Eisenman, Giorgio Grassi, Hans Hollein, ...

TWe must not leave apart the large office blocks or the shopping centres, big areas that take up one or more blocks. They are linked with underground passages, interior patios and galeries with shops and restaurants, an important finantial investment. The most known one is Lafayettes Galerie by Jean Nouvel, part of the Friedrichstadt-Passage. An entrance from the street towards a hall has a conic glass dome that comes up to the ceiling-deck, lighting up with natural light, and comes down simetrically of glass, connecting this way all the floors in the building. In West-Berlin we may also find shopping-centre like buildings such as Ka De We among others. Slowly also the west is taking space for large buildings.

Being a tipical european capital and having such commodities, Berlin must be visited to enjoy the many different atmospheres living in Berlin, a city of the 21st century.


 

 

 

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