Theme Week Berlin – Alexanderplatz and Gendarmenmarkt

Saturday, 13 November 2010 - 10:18 pm (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: Architecture, Berlin, General

© bilderbook.org

© bilderbook.org

Alexanderplatz

The Alex to Berliners, a cattle market in the Middle Ages, a military parade square and an exercise ground for nearby barracks until the mid 19th century – Alexanderplatz is the square named to honour Alexander I, Tsar of Russia, on his visit to Berlin in 1805. It was here that Alfred Döblin took the pulse of the cosmopolitan metropolis portrayed in his 1929 novel “Berlin Alexanderplatz” filmed by Fassbinder for a TV series as a portrait of the bustling city in the 1920s before the imminent Nazi takeover. Fast forward to more recent times, one million people congregated here, on 4 November 1989 to demonstrate against the GDR regime shortly before the fall of the Berlin Wall. This was the largest anti-government demonstration in its history.

© virtual-berlin.de

© virtual-berlin.de

Layer upon layer of Berlin’s urban history is located in Alexanderplatz, interweaving centuries of social, political, and architectural history and repeatedly the subject of public debate and urban design competitions.

The transformation of Alexanderplatz into a modern transit junction and shopping area came about during the second half of the 19th century with developments such as the construction of the S-Bahn, Berlin’s surface rail network in 1882 and the underground railway from 1913. Devasted during the war the square gradually developed into the pedestrian zone during the 1960s becoming a popular if rather amorphous urban area.

© JesterWr

© JesterWr

Many of the well known buildings, examples of East Berlin’s attempt to compete with the Western side’s own in-your-face high-rises were erected during this time. The Hotel Stadt Berlin – a 123m high Hotel, the Haus des Lehrers (Teachers’ House); a venue for pedagogues which remained more of a representative façade than a real educational forum; The House of Travel with a slightly amusing ring to it given the notorious travel restrictions during the GDR and the publishing house building – today’s Berliner Verlag – offices of the Berlin daily, Berliner Zeitung.

In the 1970s under Erich Honecker Alexanderplatz became an experiment in socialist urban aesthetics. The honeycomb aluminium façade of the former “Centrum Warenhaus”, (Kaufhof Group today) was the largest department store in the GDR and is today a transformed department store designed by Josef Paul Kleihues. Read more on berlin.de.

© fotos-berlin24.de

© fotos-berlin24.de

Since 2004 the Alexanderplatz was increasingly transformed. The Centrum department store (today’s Galeria Kaufhof) and the Berolinahaus were renovated. In the neighbourhood one of the largest shopping centers in Berlin, the ALEXA opened.

ALEXA is a themed shopping and leisure center. The design is a modern interpretation of the carefree era of Alexanderplatz, supported by Art Deco elements of the 1920s. The attractive mix of tenants is presented in a clearly structured approach, which creates a special shopping atmosphere. ALEXA wants to be understood as an activity center. Read more on berlin.de.

© Victorgrigas

© Victorgrigas

Everyone is supposed to remember that Berlin’s Fernsehturm (TV Tower) is 365m high and is the tallest building in Berlin. As urban legend has it, the tower’s height was a deliberate decision taken by Walter Ulbricht, Leader of the SED, so that every child would be able to remember it, just like the days of the year. In fact the tower’s summit today is 368m.

Construction for the GDR transmitter started in the 1950s and the tower erected between 1965-69 was intended as the tallest tower in Europe second only to Moscow’s own TV tower. It was built by East German architects Fritz Dieter, Günter Franke and Werner Ahrendt.

The tower consists of a 250 m concrete shaft with a red and white striped steel mast. A 3m tip was replaced in 1997 and the sphere consists of seven floors on the inside, all of which are open to visitors. The sphere’s surface consists of 140 stainless steel segments.

Around the base of the tower is an exhibition centre and a restaurant building in an ensemble which includes the Neptune fountain, once situated on the palace square. It had been a gift to the Emperor from the city of Berlin. The cascades are representations of four German rivers: the Rhine, Elbe, Oder and Weichsel.





Gendarmenmarkt © phsan

Gendarmenmarkt © phsan

Gendarmenmarkt

The Gendarmenmarkt is arguably Berlin’s most magnificent square. It is best known for the architectural trio composed of the German and French cathedrals (Deutscher und Französischer Dom) and Schinkel’s Konzerthaus (concert hall) which together form one of the most stunning ensembles in Berlin. The ‘domes’ refer to the domed tower structures erected in 1785 by architect Carl von Gontard were mainly intended to add stature and grandeur to the two buildings.

The square dates back to 1700, part of King Friedrick I’s plan for Friedrickstadt, an emerging new quarter of Berlin, where the recently expelled French Protestants or Huguenots had settled following the Edict of Potsdam in 1685 which granted them asylum in the Prussian capital. The name is in fact of French origin as “Gens d’arms” which was a Prussian regiment consisting of Huguenots soldiers.

Read more on berlin.de and gendarmenmarktberlin.de. To inform you about latest news most of the city, town or tourism websites offer a newsletter service and/or operate Facebook pages/Twitter accounts. In addition more and more destinations, tourist organisations and cultural institutions offer Apps for your Smart Phone or Tablet, to provide you with a mobile tourist guide (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State). If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




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