Monday, June 17, 2013

A Tourist Map of Berlin 2

Berlin, June 17, 2013

When I was in Berlin with RISD students last March, we were looking at a map I got at the hotel and my friend Beeke Bartelt pointed at Kurfürsterndamm and Karl-Marx-Allee as the two major lines that epitomized their respective sides of Berlin during its decades as a divided city.

After the war, Berlin was in ruins and its reconstruction became the first--and no doubt foremost--exercise in Cold War urbanism.  Hans Scharoun's "Erster Berricht" ("First Report") dramatically exhibited amidst the ruins of the Berliner Stadtschloss in the summer of 1946 didn't account for the emerging tensions between the Western Powers and the Soviet Union and was quickly forgotten.  Karl Bonatz replaced Scharoun as planning director and his plans for development to the west of the Zoologischer Garten train station along Kurfürstendamm aligned with the emerging policies of the Western Powers.  In response, the Soviets appointed Hermann Henselmann, who spearheaded the transformation of the eastern Große Frankfurter Straße into Stalin Allee (since 1961 Karl-Marx-Allee,) a ninety-meters-wide avenue of unequivocal Socialist-Realist architecture.

A expansive commercial avenue to the west and a monumental housing thoroughfare to the east, as urban emblems of a new global confrontation.

(And it was a strike of construction workers building Stalin Allee--declared on June 17, 1953, sixty years today--that ignited the escalation that would eventually lead to the erection of the Berlin Wall.)

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