Urban planning has often been defined as a public policy aimed at regulating land use in urban space through the orderly disposition of land, resources, facilities and services. From this point of view, planners and planning authorities regulate the distribution of different land uses by drawing administrative “borders” to distinguish between the functions of different areas.
In contemporary theoretical discourse, however, urban processes and spatial dynamics are perceived as tangible realities shaped by, and in turn shaping, wider political discourses. Indeed, recent research acknowledges the constraints of social structures and the power of interest groups in shaping the information-based infrastructure within which planning outcomes are often determined. The process of planning, though commonly represented as “technocratic” or “neutral,” is thus more properly understood as a central tool with which dominant economic, social or ethnic groups work to preserve their dominance of urban space. In these ongoing struggles over exclusion and inclusion, planning and zoning enable the creation and preservation of economic or social partitions along the involuntary lines of status and power.
Tensions between place and nation or between distinct economic interests are, of course, most visible along the external frontiers of the polity. Yet social, ethnic and economic partitions can also coincide with regional, municipal, urban and communal frontiers. Such internal frontiers, like external ones, are generally created on the basis of competing locational, regional or ideological demands for spatial control. In other words, the marking of internal urban frontiers enables the state apparatus to establish within the city a desired pattern of economic, social and political relations, to optimize conditions for economic growth and capital accumulation and to benefit powerful groups.
In this article I will offer a “reverse” perspective on planning policies by approaching planning not only as a tool in the construction of social or economic partitions but also as a mending tool in the diffusion of communities and the deconstruction of such partitions. From this perspective, planning policies should also be understood (both during the planning process itself and within the framework of ex-post examination) as a valuable tool for removing social or economic partitions. In order to examine the validity of this basic argument and its constraints, I will explore the spatial and morphological development of post-Wende Berlin, focusing on the planning policies formulated after reunification. Whereas the existing theoretical discourse on the social role of spatial policies presents German unification in terms of absorption (of East into West) rather than merger, portraying the East-West relationship as an asymmetrical one in which West Germans are the dominant economic and social group, I will show how Land and Federal authorities attempted to utilize planning policies as part of a more general effort to shape a single, consolidated urban identity and to break down existing physical and mental partitions between the two communities. Because these same planning policies were themselves shaped by the aforementioned wider political discourses, post-Wende Berlin can serve as an interesting study case: its planners strove for physical and mental consolidation not only through architectural iconography but also by remaking the complex and dynamic mosaic of urban life through everyday encounters, opening the door to a discussion about the role of urban planning and other spatial dynamics in the remaking of this urban mosaic.
1. The spatial consolidation of Berlin: between past and future
In the social imaginary, the reunification of Germany is epitomized by the fall of the Berlin Wall, at which point a heretofore external frontier between East and West became an internal frontier within the newly unified Germany. Yet despite its historical centrality, the taking down of the Wall in itself removed neither the physical nor the psychological barriers between the two parts of this divided city.
In many senses, Berlin remained physically divided: first, parts of the Wall outside the city center remained intact for years; second, the two suddenly-united polities had completely different urban atmospheres, cultural characteristics and physical forms; third, the spontaneous tearing down of the physical wall in the city center left the city with a stretch of neglected wasteland, a physical void in the city center; finally, the historic center, market and cultural forces continued to pull both East and West in the directions of their previous urban centers. Furthermore, the tearing down of the Wall did not bring down the mental “wall” between the two communities (the so called “Mauer im Kopf”), but rather exposed a myriad of other, equally obstinate psychological, economic and social barriers. In fact, the post-Wende era emphasized the cultural and economic chasm between Easterners and Westerners. The now invisible Wall became the symbol of Germany’s identity crisis.
One way in which this unresolved identity of Berlin was negotiated was in terms of its spatial development; the form of its newly unified space. The accepted wisdom is that two basic strategies for using spatial policies as an identity-building tool dominated the discourse, coined the “Architectural Debate” or “the Berlin architecture controversy.” In aesthetic terms the debate has centered on two approaches to design and architecture, each of which presented a different strategy for the spatial weaving of the urban fabric. The champions of urban planning along traditional lines embodied in the "Critical Reconstruction" approach called for the creation of a city modeled after the pre-modern prototype. Advocates of this approach did not seek to invent a new identity but to restore an urban identity lost over decades of wars and division: the nostalgic memories of a common past would form a fertile ground upon which a unified identity could be shaped. Critical Reconstruction promotes a return to traditional urban forms enriched by and utilizing contemporary building techniques and materials. In Berlin, the Critical Reconstructionists aimed to bring Berlin back to the architectural principles (with regard to building materials and scale) and the urban ground planning of its late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century golden age.
One can identify four main criticisms of Critical Reconstruction. The first concerns the symbolism of choosing a past-oriented approach to design. Promoting the idea of a common national past may mask anti-liberal and nationalistic tendencies with potentially dangerous implications. The second criticism concerns the politics of memory. The seemingly arbitrary choice of one specific period of time is read as a conscious or unconscious decision not to deal with, or even to erase, other periods of the city's history. In the case of Berlin, some critics have interpreted the architectural return to pre-war urban forms as an attempt to gloss over the memories and injustices carried out during the Second World War and the years of separation. The third, more conservative criticism, concerns Critical Reconstruction's dialogic approach to urban renewal. While Critical Reconstructionists apply traditional planning and design principles within the framework of modern-day construction in order to to resurrect the feeling of the time , this conservative approach favors a radical reconstruction of the city center through the literal reproduction of historical symbols (of which the most prominent example is the Stadtschloss).
The fourth criticism, and the one most relevant to our discussion, is concerned more with the aesthetic and architectural principles of Critical Reconstruction than with their symbolic meanings. In aesthetic terms, the future-oriented critics were less concerned with the general planning policy of inner Berlin and more case-specific, favoring the large-scale projects of glass and steel built in the International Style. In this way, the fourth criticism is more concerned with economic calculus: the increase of professional prestige (of the international architects involved in the projects), the maximization of the usable floor-space, the minimization of land-acquisition and building costs and the increase of the international marketability of the design. The primary opposition to Critical Reconstruction also stems from this fourth criticism. The champions of the International Style chose to focus on creating a prosperous urban future. In order to attract global firms, they favoured large blocks designed by world-renowned architects and called for the adaptation of planning and zoning laws according to the nature and scale of contemporary commerce.
The hyper-modern visions and computer-generated designs of the International Style supposedly provide a stark contrast to the historically-rooted vision of Critical Reconstruction. However, according to Andreas Huyssen, the boundaries between these two styles have blurred over time, producing what he has described as a “palimpsest,” a complex web of historical markers that point to the continuing heterogeneous life of a vital city ambivalent about its past and future. A similar notion to Huyssen’s palimpsest concept is what Rolf Goebel terms “architectural citations.” According to Goebel, “citational” projects — such as the Reichstag’s combination of a historic facade with a postmodern glass dome and new interior — inscribe contemporary architectural styles with allusive reinventions of previous cultural manifestations and discourses, incorporate actual remnants of older edifices or use partial reconstruction for new social purposes.
The production of the mosaic of old and new, which both Huyssen and Goebel discuss, was not, however, “harmonious.” Whereas most criticism of the resulting appearance of Berlin was directed at the Critical Reconstructionists, this appearance was intensely influenced by these conflicting strategies and must be seen as a mix of the two styles. The lack of a comprehensive spatial policy with regard to the desired future of the urban realm left champions of the two styles to tussle over each and every area, project and building. What resulted was a unique amalgamation of Critical Reconstruction and International Style in each. Each physical object constructed in post-Wende inner Berlin can therefore be situated differently on a continuum ranging from the Critical Reconstruction archetype to that of the International Style. The specific interplay between the champions of each style will be examined with regard to several projects, providing a new perspective on both the final mixture composing each tile of the urban mosaic and of the pattern of the mosaic as a whole.
2. Planning the urban fabric of post-Wende Berlin
Institutionally, the general planning guidelines for a unified Berlin were shaped by a joint decision-making body (Gemeinsamer Ausschuss) consisting of equal representation for federal and municipal authorities. This served both to marginalize the powers of the district authorities (the Bezirk), traditionally given the right of final approval for all building plans, and to make the planning process more efficient.
The Berlin Ministry of Urban Development and Environmental Protection, headed by Hans Stimmann (the city’s Building Director from 1991 to 1996 and later State Secretary for Urban Development) proposed a design that would mend the once-divided city through the resurrection of a history common to both West and East – the vivid pre-1914 Berlin etched in the social imaginary as the city’s golden age. Inspired by the design concept of Critical Reconstruction, Stimmann and his counterparts called for the resurrection of the historic urban fabric of the city center. They understood the historic city center as a void at the city’s heart, the absence of which precluded a harmonious whole. The planning authorities of unified Berlin thus diagnosed the city as lacking a central organ to pump blood through its vessels, rather than as suffering from a more general identity disorder. Consequently, their efforts were mostly directed at the inner city and not at the city as a whole.
As Building Director, the “nostalgic” Stimmann hired several planning experts and urban historians sympathetic to his agenda to draft a set of design guidelines for the inner city, especially the historic district of Friedrichstadt. Though not legally binding these guidelines were enforced through informal leverage on developers and architects. After his 1995 appointment as State Secretary for Urban Development, Stimmann began pushing for the approval of a legally-binding plan. The proposed plan tackled many obstacles which had hindered the Critical Reconstructionists’ efforts to that point; for example, traffic policies and the effective enforcement of aesthetic requirements. Planwerk Innenstadt (the Inner City Building Plan) was ratified by the Berlin senate and the Berlin House of Representatives in 1999.
Planwerk Innenstadt drafters and promoters aspired to “take down the real and invisible borders that were dividing the city” and to promote a dialog with the city’s pre-war past. The planning authorities’ vision for the historic city center was best articulated by Stimmann himself in 1995:
… the fundamental question was: what should the new construction relate to – the fragments of the historical city, or the high-rises around Leipziger Straβe and Friedrichstraβe Station? The answer came loud and clear in the form of a ‘critical reconstruction’ of the ground plan of the city. Following years of failed urban experiments, the prevailing wish was not for an entirely new city, but for a return to traditional urbanism. There was a desire for East and West to grow together across the strip where the Wall used to stand, and for a common future expressed in a re-defined city center.”
The plan, like the design guidelines that preceded it, was based on Critical Reconstruction’s five primary rules: the reconstruction of, or respect for, historical street patterns and building lines; the limitation of building height in accordance with local tradition (a maximum of 22 meters eaves-height and 30 meters ridge-height); the designation of approximately 20 percent of the overall floor space for residential accommodation in keeping with the traditional mix of residential and commercial uses; the maintaining of a building density of around five structures; the enforcement of a maximum permitted lot size of one urban block. In addition, the plan attempted to minimize the demolition of traditional buildings and encourage the use of such pre-war architectural elements as the inner courtyard and the stone-glass facade.
For the Critical Reconstuctionists Berlin’s heart was to be resurrected from the remains of the pre-war city; for the advocates of International Style it was to be made up of a wholly new, global city. The resulting fusion, a resurrected/transplanted heart, has four chambers: the Government Quarter, Potsdamer Platz, Alexanderplatz and Friedrichstraße. Each of these developments are situated differently on the continuum ranging between the Critical Reconstruction archetype to that of the International Style. The Government Quarter consists of Norman Forster’s redesigned Reichstag (see above building and the “Federal Band” (the Band des Bundes), a half-mile East-West corridor of federal buildings (a contrast to Albert Speer’s notorious north-south axis) designed by architects Axel Schultes and Charlotte Frank. The band runs north of the iconic Reichstag building, with Schultes’ and Frank’s Federal Chancellery at its Western end and Stephan Braunfels’ Marie Elisabeth Lüders Haus (the Bundestag's Library) at its other. Apart from Foster’s “citational” Reichstag project, with its ornamental historic façades, entirely new interior and new glass dome, all buildings in the Government Quarter are modern in appearance and use transparent building techniques conveying a message of openness, transparency and democracy.
Even more than the Band des Bundes, the Potsdamer Platz complex is marked by the dominance of the International Style architecture and scale with its skyscraper agglomerations, where a once barren wasteland has been transformed into a powerful showpiece of global capitalism and international architecture. The complex is centered on two skyscrapers – Renzo Piano’s and Christoph Kohlbecker’s twenty-one-storey stone-glass Debis Tower (the heart of the DaimlerChrysler Areal nineteen-building complex) and Helmut Jahn’s twenty-six-storey glass DB Building, part of the Sony Center complex centered on an ultra-modern glass-steel plaza with a striking glass roof. The site of DaimlerChrysler Areal was sold to Daimler-Benz InterServices around the time of the fall of the Wall in 1989 that of the Sony Center in spring 1991. While the initial vision of the planning authorities saw the redevelopment of Potsdamer Platz as a chance to recreate the old city fabric of traditional street blocks lined by low-rise buildings, members of the futuristic camp and investing companies preferred a more modern statement on Berlin’s future as a competitive global-city. And so, whilst the overall urban design for the site (designed by Heinz Himler and Christoph Sattler), had conceptualized the planning authorities’ past-oriented vision, the detailed planning of specific projects adhered to the vision of future-oriented developers and largely abandoned the principles of the general site plan. Indeed, though some elements of Critical Reconstruction — the traditional mix of residential and commercial uses, the stone-glass façades of the Debis Tower and the incorporation of few prewar remnants (the Weinhaus Huth and the Grand Hotel Esplanade) — are evident in the complex, as a whole it is nevertheless much closer to the International Style end of the continuum.
In the case of Alexanderplatz, the post-Wende planning process began in 1992, at which point the surrounding land had already been sold to developers without any pre-arranged planning requirements. Thus diminished, the city’s leverage was further hampered by the unprecedented incorporation of private investors in the jury competition issued for the area – the investors had representatives in the jury and even selected a number of the architects invited to submit designs. The competition’s guidelines did require, for example, the preservation of the two historic Behrens buildings and the incorporation of mixed-use planning (only 30% offices), but the winning design was decidedly future-oriented. Hans Kollhoff’s futurist proposal calling for 12 high-rise towers of over forty stories won, but drew extensive public criticism both during and after the competition. Public criticism was likewise directed at the selection process, rejecting the architects’ and developers’ skyscraper vision and the highly competitive capitalist real estate market which influenced the choice. Following the public uproar and the slowdown of the Berlin real estate market in the late 1990s, many of the approved building plans did not reach the building height and density originally envisioned in Kollhoff’s design. The developers’ decision not to exhaust the maximal limits laid out in the plan for Alexanderplatz cannot, however, be attributed to the successful leverage of the planning authorities, but rather to the persistent public pressure and the bursting of the Berlin real estate bubble.
Ownership, time, and public involvement play a part in locating any development on the Critical Reconstruction-International Style continuum. The past-oriented approaches had the upper hand among planning authorities, making the champions of forward-facing approaches the extra-institutional opposition. Thus the ability of the futurists to influence the outcome of the planning processes was dependent on the amount of leverage they were able to exercise on decision-making bodies. Purchasing land before planning processes had begun was an important factor in increasing negotiating leverage, as suggested by the example of Potsdamer Platz and Alexanderplatz. Another factor is time: the more quickly the land is purchased, the greater leverage yielded by the investors. Also, and because of the longer time it took the planning authorities to adjust to the new reality and the even longer time it took the general public to get involved, the faster the planning process began the bigger the investors' ability to influence its outcome was. In the case of Alexanderplatz, for example, despite an unprecedented incorporation of the private investors in the planning process (the surrounding land was already sold when the process began) the public controversy was nevertheless a prominent factor in the failure of the developers to realize their ultimate goals.
The development of the fourth chamber of Berlin’s old/new heart will now be discussed in greater length. I focus on Friedrichstraße for two reasons: first, the path of the historic north-south axis was, in part, the path of the physical partition between the two Berlins; second, the boulevard’s development is located closer to the Critical Reconstruction end of the continuum.
3. The (critical) reconstruction of Friedrichstraße
Friedrichstadt district, of which Friedrichstraße served as the main north-south axis, was built in the eighteenth century to the south of the medieval Nikolaiviertel (Nikolai Quarter), by the King of Prussia Friedrich Wilhelm. The new residential district was developed on a grid plan of wide streets and rectangular blocks of two- or three-storey stone houses. After the 1871 unification of Germany and the rapid industrialization of the city, Friedrichstadt gradually transformed from a residential neighborhood into a bustling commercial district. The baroque residential houses were replaced by ornate five-storey buildings with courtyards housing mostly offices and shops. Together with Potsdamer Platz and Unter den Linden, Friedrichstraße became the cultural and economic center of the blossoming metropolis.
Friedrichstraße was almost completely destroyed during the Second World War, and the division of Berlin reinforced its decay. The street was divided in two: a large northern portion, from Checkpoint Charlie to Torstrasse belonged to East Berlin and a smaller southern portion, from Checkpoint Charlie to the Hallesches Tor U-Bahn in the Kreuzberg district to West Berlin. Far from its previous centrality, the boulevard was now relegated to a peripheral position and turned into a half-neglected wasteland. The commercial center of East Berlin was now concentrated around Stalinallee and Alexanderplatz while government buildings were located on the northern part of the Friedrichstadt, around Marx-Engels-Platz, the former site of the Prussian Stadtschloss demolished in 1952. The commercial activity of the Western part of the city was concentrated around the shopping and entertainment district of Kurfürstendamm, between Ernst-Reuter-Platz and Wittenbergplatz.
The new social and political developments of the late 1960s brought new hope to southern Friedrichstadt. Frustrated with the lack of urban substance and the profit-orientated functionalism of post-war modernism, many young West German architects and urban planners began to challenge the hegemony of modernist architecture and adopted a more historically-oriented approach to design. This new approach was articulated in a series of historically-aware urban renewal projects across the “Western” part of Friedrichstadt leading up to the 1987 IBA (Internationale Bauausstellung).
The past-oriented design trends in the West were mirrored by parallel developments in the East. Until the late 1960s the GDR had favored new construction, but soon it began to revisit its existing housing policies to emphasize renovation of existing urban structures, investing increasing funds in the refurbishment and enhancement of the existing urban fabric. Beginning in the 1970s and leading up to Berlin’s 750th anniversary in 1987, neo-historical forms were increasingly used in Eastern showcase projects (for example, Nikolaiviertel and the Platz der Akademie). Friedrichstraße’s proximity to the Wall, once the reason for it being overlooked, was now perceived as one of its fortes: the East justifiably understood Friedrichstraße’s appearance as its outward image to the West.
Between Französische Straße and Mohrenstraße (Friedrichstraße 66-78), the Ministry of Construction planned a glamorous Art Nouveau and Art Deco shopping center (Friedrichstadt Passagen), to consist of 105 shops, 4 department stores, 44 restaurants and luxurious apartments. The neighboring “Block 204” was to include a bar and discothèque while a “House of Entertainment” was planned for the opposite side of the boulevard as well as the 1987 Grand Hotel (today’s Westin Grand Berlin) and the 1985 Spreeterrassen.  All of these projects were to feature ornamental historical references and to remain compatible with the existing pre-war buildings in terms of both scale and design. Over the course of the 1980s, the project’s budget was repeatedly cut, so that it remained largely a work-in-progress when the Wall was torn down in 1989. The unfinished shells left behind by the GDR, including the uncompleted Friedrichstadt Passagen, were themselves symbolically taken down only to be “critically reconstructed” several years later.
After reunification, Friedrichstraße, along with Potsdamer Platz, found itself at the heart of public polemic over the city’s architectural future. The boulevard’s rich and colorful history and its location at the beating heart of pre-war Berlin made its reconstruction a crucial goal of the nostalgic camp’s strategy and among the most desirable piece of property in the city.
At the exact location of Friedrichstadt Passagen, three luxurious shopping arcades were erected. The project, Friedrichstadt Passagen, consists of three block-sized buildings: Mathias Ungers’s Quartier 205 (Friedrichstraße 66-70); Pei Cobb Freed & Partners’ Quartier 206 (Friedrichstraße 71-74); and Jean Nouvel’s Quartier 207 (Friedrichstraße 76-78) of the latter housing the French department store Galeries Lafayette. The arcades are connected by an underground passage spanning the length of the complex, allowing traffic to move freely at street level. The underlying concept links contemporary shopping pleasure with the Berlin urban shopping tradition, dating back to the nineteenth century.
In accordance with the principles of Critical Reconstruction, all three arcades are multi-functional (they comprise a retail space, offices and residential apartments) and correspond with the traditional height limitation. All three buildings include references to the traditional “courtyard,” using different architectural techniques (an atria, a glass-roofed central area, or a light-cone). Mathias Ungers and Pei Cobb Freed & Partners both used architectural techniques which create an illusion of a traditional slanted roof. Quartier 205 and Quartier 206 are made up of building materials which correspond to the principles of Critical Reconstruction, the façades are covered with neutral-color sandstone. Quartier 206 corresponds most fully with the principles of Critical Reconstruction: its façades are decorated with triangular stone elements and horizontally oriented windows which, from street-level, recall the plaster ornaments of nineteenth-century buildings. Its black-and-white checker motif interior also recalls early twentieth-century design trends. Quartier 207, with its all-glass, translucent façade, corresponds less fully with the principles of Critical Reconstruction.
Although the Passages and the rest of the new buildings along Friedrichstraße follow the approach of Critical Reconstruction in their general orientation towards traditional Berlin city forms, they also exemplify the tensions between past- (Critical Reconstruction) and future-oriented (International Style) approaches to design. As with the overall planning level, specific projects and buildings can be placed on a continuum ranging from the Critical Reconstruction archetype to that of the International Style.
Several factors determined the final location of specific projects on this continuum. Importantly, most sites along Friedrichstraße had been allocated and were near completion long before Stimmann’s guidelines were formulated, as events moved too quickly to allow the newly formed planning entities to develop and enforce a planning strategy for the area. As a result, many of the buildings along the boulevard have not been subjected to the planning authorities’ guidelines, prominently the Galeries Lafayette and its all-glass façade, approved before the formulation of Stimmann’s guidelines.
One of the main bones of contention on this issue, were the plot sizes allocated to developers. As in other parts of the city, the city gave in to pressure and hastily allocated large-block parcels to developers in an attempt to lure international developers. The nostalgic camp’s vision for Friedrichstraße found itself at odds with the contemporary scale of commerce. Whereas the pre-war subdivided city blocks were celebrated for creating a mix of functions along the grand boulevards, the consolidation of entire blocks for development by a single owner and a single architect, some suggest, had created a form of homogeneity.
The interplay between the two approaches is evident, for example, in these buildings’ “courtyards.” The nostalgic vision attempted to bring back the small courtyards within long, narrow parcels, ideal for a variety of small-scale trade. This vision of informal and intimate trade found itself at odds with the enclosed nature of contemporary commerce, sealed off as it is from the rest of the public realm by tight security, various physical obstacles, and its maximization of floor space. In today’s reality, informal, small-scale trade is not permitted, and courtyards, insofar as they exist, are intended only for rent-paying private use. In reality, then, most of Friedrichstraße’s commercial buildings are not centered on truly public courtyards but on inaccessible light wells such as Nouvel’s glass cones or otherwise void spaces. Of the three Passagen, for example, only Quartier 205 is centered on non-commercial open-air courtyards.
A third example of these same interplays is the branding of Friedrichstraße and the definition of its target market. The boulevard’s high visibility and the high cost of properties along it have attracted big international investors and high-end brands that concentrate their efforts on higher social classes and wealthy tourists. Friedrichstraße’s new luxurious image presents a stark contrast to the romantic image of the boulevard at the center of the artistic and commercial culture of the 1920s. In the environment of contemporary capitalism, the revival of such a vivid urban atmosphere was virtually precluded.
The fourth example of these interplays between the two approaches to design can be found in the exteriors of the Passagen and the rest of the new buildings along Friedrichstraße. Whilst Critical Reconstruction attempted to promote a dialog with the past and recreate the urban fabric by bringing back the ornamental use of such traditional architectural elements as slanted roofs and a fixed ratio of stone to glass, the champions of the International Style favored the use of clean lines and modern materials. The architectural elements that contributed to the success of the iconographic palimpsest/citational projects, like the Reichstag, were not as effectively incorporated into the commercial construction along Friedrichstraße and the neighboring streets. The buildings’ height and materials might echo those of pre-World War II buildings, but their overall geometric feel and grayness make them visually similar to other contemporary commercial buildings across the world. Despite the promotional rhetoric used by the Friedrichstadt Passagen’s planners and developers, the buildings themselves can be easily imagined as an integral part of a contemporary development project anywhere else in the worldwide.
Urban planning can be understood as a tool in the partitioning of public space along involuntary lines of status and power. This process of marking internal urban frontiers enables state authorities to shape patterns of economic, social and political relations. In this context, post-reunification spatial policies in Berlin can be analyzed as a tool for reinforcing the existing frontier between East and West and as an instrument to further (Western-led) governmental goals. However, I have offered here an alternative perspective on planning policies. By focusing on the development of inner Berlin, I suggest that planning can also serve as a mending tool in the consolidation of communities and the removal of social partitions.
Though in and of itself not necessarily successful, the Berlin experiment can teach six valuable lessons on the power of planning mechanisms to remove social and economic partitions. First, planning policies cannot stand on their own, but are part of a larger formation of spatial policies. The state apparatus for the production of social space consists not only of planning mechanisms but also of other instruments intended to further governmental goals regarding the use, control and development of land. In the case of Berlin the tension between planning and land policies is particularly apparent. Most land in the inner city had been allocated before the planning authorities established any organized planning strategy, a fact which later diminished the leverage of the planning authorities to approve or enforce official planning regulations. It is not my assertion that land policies should serve planning policies (that is, that planning policies are necessarily prerequisites for land allocation); but that the two, along with other spatial policies, should be enacted in tandem so as to achieve the desired social space.
Second, the process of planning must be understood and discussed separately from architectural discourse and work: though planning and architecture clearly have many commonalities and interfaces, they shape distinct planes of social space. The planning process aims at producing a structural and analytical strategy for the planned area as a whole: by regulating land use, incorporating the planned area into its surroundings, taking into account long-term development goals, regulating internal dynamics and functioning and by shaping its general aesthetic characteristics. The architect, meanwhile, is expected to work within the constraints set down by planning mechanisms on a specific lot and to produce a functional (and aesthetic) building. An architectural criticism on the specific constraints in which the architect is forced to work and the more general criticism of the structural (dis)function of the wider social space must therefore be distinguished. These two critiques are intertwined, but not identical. In the case of Berlin, both architects and planners overreached their roles, interfering excessively in the work of the other. This rhetorical and functional confusion resulted not only in a struggle to find a common vocabulary, but in some cases the town planners and architects even presented contradictory messages.
Third, public involvement is generally understood to be a basic principle of the planning process, certainly when there is an explicit aspiration to shape social reality and wider political discourse. In the case of Berlin, despite publicly declaring such intentions, the planning authorities actively worked to neutralize the public’s ability to take part in the process and to influence its outcomes. The neutralizing of public involvement in the planning process was achieved by the removal of the Bezirk, whose officials are considered to be the representatives of the public interest, from the planning process and by the overriding of the standard planning process through which the public is given the opportunity to voice its concerns. It is therefore not surprising that the post-Wende planning process has enjoyed little to no public legitimacy and failed to meld together the city and its public, intentionally and demonstratively excluded from the process.
Fourth, communities are not mended solely by the removal of partitions but also by the further uniting of the two parts into one whole. Attention must therefore be drawn not only to the area where the barrier is understood to stand but to the entire space to be united. I therefore see focusing on Berlin’s historic core – rather than on the city as a whole – as a crucially problematic element of post-reunification planning policies. To return to a previous metaphor, unified Berlin seems to have been misdiagnosed as suffering from a heart problem as opposed to a wide-ranging dissociative identity disorder. The re-development of the historic core should have been part of an overarching spatial-development policy for the city as a whole. The creation of a new identity for the center of the city, while its residents left for the suburbs and its residents had no say in the process, was unlikely to create a new holistic identity for the city.
Fifth, the commonly understood interplay between past- and future-oriented approaches to design may not in fact be the true conflict behind Berlin’s post-Wende spatial development: it is not clear which partition was to be deconstructed and which entities integrated. In many senses, the new core of Berlin is more appealing to foreign investors and international tourists than to its own residents, becoming a global enclave of tourists and international firms devoid of the unique characteristics of Berlin. Was the targeted social and economic partition the one which separated the two sides of the city or the one which separated Berlin (and Germany) from the rest of the Western world? Was the aim to unite the two Berlins or to unite Berlin with London, New York and Tokyo? The real point of contention was perhaps not how to unify the two parts of Berlin (by adopting past- or future-oriented approaches to design) but how to unite Berlin with the rest of Europe and the Western world. Which image to sell to the global market: the awakening sleeping beauty or the showy newcomer? In the end, the city’s spatial and morphological future may not have been an interplay between Critical Reconstruction and the International Style at all, but a response to answers of each actor to the above questions.
Finally, the “positive” role of planning – that is, its ability to take down social and economic partitions – cannot be isolated from its “negative” role: its tendency to mark or reinforce internal urban frontiers. From the experience of Berlin we should learn that social and economic partitions do not simply disappear but shift. The role of the planning authorities, therefore, is not only to identify existing social/economic partitions but also to decide where to move them. In the case of Berlin it is not only unclear which partition was targeted for deconstruction (my fifth point), but also to where it was intended to be moved. Berlin’s new urban frontiers did not correspond to the municipal borders of the unified city, as may have been expected, but rather along the boundaries of its historic core. Thus was a wholly new and wholly internal social and economic partition between center and periphery (my fourth point) formed.
O. Yiftachel and H. Yacobi, “Urban Ethnocracy: Ethnicization and the production of space in an Israeli Mixed city,” Environment and Planning: Society and Space 21 (2003): 673-693.
M. Huxley and O. Yiftachel “New Paradigm or Old Myopia? Unsettling the Communicative Turn in Planning Theory,” Journal of Planning Education & Research 19, 4 (2000): 102-103.
Lefebvre defines planning as “the production of social space by political power in the service of economic goals.” See: H. Lefebvre, The Production of Space (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1991), 151-152.
Yiftachel and Yacobi, “Urban Ethnocracy;” P. Marcuse and R. Van Kempen (eds.), Of States and Cities: the Partitioning of Urban Space (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 3-10.
O. Yiftachel, “The Internal Frontier: Territorial Control and Ethnic Relations in Israel,” Regional Studies 30, 5 (1996): 496.
M. Hebbert, “The Street as Locus of Collective Memory,” Environment and Planning: Society and Space 23 (2005): 583.
B. Ladd, The Ghosts of Berlin: Confronting German History in the Urban Landscape (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997), 32-33.
E. Strom, Building the New Berlin: the Politics of Urban Development in Germany’s Capital City (Oxford: Lexington Books, 2001), 139-145; G. Kähler, “As the Steam Began to Rise…,” in City of Architecture of the City: Berlin 1900-2000, ed. T. Scheer, J.-P. Kleihues, and P. Kahlfeldt (Berlin: Nicolaische Verlagsbuchhandlung, 2000), 139-145.
Strom, Building the New Berlin, 381-387.
Critical Reconstruction was developed by a group of young West Berlin architects like Josef Paul Kleihues and Wolf Jobst Siedler in the late 1960s and the 1970s. See: K. von Beyme, “Ideas for a Capital City in East and West,” in City of Architecture of the City: Berlin 1900-2000, ed. T. Scheer, J.-P. Kleihues, and P. Kahlfeldt (Berlin: Nicolaische Verlagsbuchhandlung, 2000), 247.
J. Giovannini, “Berlin’s new walls,” Architecture 87, 9 (1998).
Ladd, The Ghosts of Berlin, 231.
Strom, Building the New Berlin, 140-144.
A. Huyssen, “After the War: Berlin as Palimpsest,” Harvard Design Magazine 10 (2000): 3-5.
R. J. Goebel, “Berlin’s Architectural Citations: Reconstruction, Simulation, and the Problem of Historical Authenticity,” PMLA 118, 5 (2003), 1268-1289.
Goebel, “Berlin’s Architectural Citations,” 1268-1269.
Strom, Building the New Berlin, 164-165.
Strom, Building the New Berlin, 30-32; “Unless specifically removed from its jurisdiction, as was done in this case, all building plans must be submitted for the Bezirk’s approval. Moreover, as Bezirk officials are considered to be the representatives of those interests, they are included in the drawing of citywide plans and invited to sit on the juries of architectural competitions or topical commissions” (Ibid.).
Ibid., 32, 165.
Ibid., 165. As a direct result of these changes the public's ability to influence the planning process was diluted in three senses: the Bezirke, which are considered to be the representatives of the local interests, were taken out of the process; the public's ability to bring their objections before the planning institutions was revoked; only half of the last-instance decision-making body is now consisted of elected representatives.
W. J. V. Neill, Urban planning and cultural identity (London: Routledge, 2004), 93; Strom, Building the New Berlin, 109-110.
Unlike the heated and intense debate waged over the future development of the historic core, the development of the rest of the city was not the subject of any real discussion. The fall of the Wall meant that the heretofore self-contained (subdivided) city suddenly acquired some breathing room; tens of thousands of middle-class residents from both East and West moved to the urban hinterlands: the newly-built cottages in the Brandenburg periphery and residential areas within Berlin’s municipal boundaries (W. Kil, “Berlin: Without Boundaries,” in City of Architecture of the City: Berlin 1900-2000, ed. T. Scheer, J.-P. Kleihues, and P. Kahlfeldt (Berlin: Nicolaische Verlagsbuchhandlung, 2000), 374). Thus, in addition to the creation of a new center-periphery tension within Berlin itself, the accelerating process of residential suburbanization has further created a new tension between the new city-state and the surrounding Land of Brandenburg. In architectural and design terms, the planning of the new residential periphery was drawn not in structural but merely in aesthetic terms, resulting in residential estates, isolated in the urban periphery and struggling to create an urban identity (Ibid., 376). The new Speckgürtel (literally, “belt of fat”) surrounding Berlin consisted of numerous subsidized retail centers, hypermarkets, industrial plants and golf courses, and exacerbated the center-periphery competition between Berlin and Brandenburg (Ibid., 375; Allan Cochrane and Andrew Jonas, “Reimagining Berlin: world city, national capital or ordinary place?,” European Urban and Regional Studies 6, 2 (1999): 155-156).
Strom, Building the New Berlin, 109, 140.
Ibid., 110. The speedy allocation of entire blocks forced the planning authorities to, as Stimmann puts it, “collaborate with” owners of large parcels to “develop a mix of independent buildings” through different manners of informal leverage: H. Stimmann, “Urban Design and Architecture after the Wall,” in World Cities: Berlin, ed. A. Balfour (London: Academy Editions, 1995), 51-52. The approval of the binding plan enabled them, for example, to require the developers of block-size parcels to build with varied façade.
Neill, Urban Planning, 96.
See the website of the Berlin Senate Department for Urban Development – goals of Planwerk Innenstadt: http://www.stadtentwicklung.berlin.de/planen/
Stimmann, “Urban Design and Architecture after the Wall,” 51.
According to the Berlin Building Code of 1929, the maximum building height could not exceed 27 feet. In addition, the planning authorities re-enforced some of the other articles of the Code, such as the option of stepping the upper stories back (an architectural element creating the illusion of a traditional slanted roof) and the designation of the districts of Friedrichstadt and Dorotheenstadt as commercial areas (Stimmann, “Urban Design and Architecture after the Wall,” 52; Ladd, The Ghosts of Berlin, 109).
Stimmann, “Urban Design and Architecture after the Wall,” 51. Reunification was followed by a massive re-privatization of property. This process opened a debate about the size of the parcels put up for sale. While the ‘nostalgic’ city planners favored the division of blocks into modest-sized parcels (10-20 per block), city government favored the sale of entire city blocks to large, established developers (Ladd, The Ghosts of Berlin, 232; Hebbert, “The Street as Locus of Collective Memory,” 591; Strom, Building the New Berlin, 201-206).
Hebbert, “The Street as Locus of Collective Memory,” 591; A. Huyssen, “The Voids of Berlin,” Critical Inquiry 24, 1 (1997): 68; Goebel, “Berlin’s Architectural Citations,” 1270.
S. Sassen, The Global City: New York, London, Tokyo (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1991).
In this inner city system, the East-West axis of Unter den Linden allows the circulation of traffic between the Government Quarter, Friedrichstraße and Alexanderplatz. An additional urban center, located outside the historic core, is of course the district of the Kurfürstendamm, the former center of West Berlin.
For an extended discussion on the Government Quarter, see: M. Z. Wise, Capital Dilemma: Germany’s Search for a New Architecture of Democracy (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1998), 57-64.
Strom, Building the New Berlin, 188, 190. The exact date of the sale to Daimler-Benz InterServices is unknown. The company claims the agreement was reached before the reunification took place.
Strom, Building the New Berlin, 192-198.
Goebel, “Berlin’s Architectural Citations,” 1276.
T. H. Elkins, Berlin: the Spatial Structure of a Divided City (New York: Methuen & Co, 1988).
Ladd, The Ghosts of Berlin, 109; Elkins, Berlin: the Spatial Structure of a Divided City, 163.
Strom, Building the New Berlin, 139.
S. Hain, “Between Arkonaplatz and the Nikolaiviertel. The City as a Social Form Versus the City as Mise-en-scène. Conflicts Raised by the Return to the City,” in City of Architecture of the City: Berlin 1900-2000, ed. T. Scheer, J.-P. Kleihues, and P. Kahlfeldt (Berlin: Nicolaische Verlagsbuchhandlung, 2000), 337-339.
Elkins, Berlin: the Spatial Structure, 209. The book was published in the West in 1989 and provides a vivid description of the building project on the GDR side.
F. Urban, “Friedrichstraße, 1987: Neo-Historical Urban Design in the German Democratic Republic,” Planning Perspectives 23 (2008): 4.
Strom, Building the New Berlin, 200-201.
Goebel, “Berlin’s Architectural Citations,” 1979-1981; Urban, “Friedrichstraße, 1987,” 6.
Quartier 205's upper floors are gradually withdrawn creating the illusion of a traditional slanted roof. Quartier 206's upper floors are tilted back at an angle and are differentiated from the lower ones by darker building material and less stone.
A. Balfour (ed.), World Cities: Berlin, 256-257.
Goebel, “Berlin’s Architectural Citations,” 1279.
Strom, Building the New Berlin, 201-206. The responsibility to choose a developer for each city-center site was placed in the hands of an ad hoc steering committee, the Coordinating Committee for Inner City Investment (KOAI). The committee met regularly from February 1991 through September 1993, when most of the contested development sites, including sixteen on Friedrichstraße, had already been sold. See Strom, Building the New Berlin, 107-108.
Ladd, The Ghosts of Berlin, 232; Hebbert, “The Street as Locus of Collective Memory,” 591; Strom, Building the New Berlin, 201-206.
Goebel, “Berlin’s Architectural Citations,” 1285.