Potsdamer Platz

by Sara · 21.11.2012 · Kiez Life, Places · 6 comments

I’ll be hon­est: there is lit­er­ally noth­ing attract­ive about Pots­damer Platz and I’ll rarely ever pass by. It’s bor­ing and dis­con­cert­ing, pretty much the typ­ical go-to tour­ist hot spot with a mix of fancy res­taur­ants and posh office build­ings. You can expect some stuff to see, but a col­or­less lack of human inter­ac­tion. The only time you’ll find me there is when I need to see a movie on a proper blown up screen in its ori­ginal lan­guage. Nev­er­mind pay­ing half my rent for a gal­lon of coke and a oil tanker sized bowl of pop­corn, the cinemas at Pots­damer Platz are simply the kind of met­ro­pol­itan enter­tain­ment sta­di­ons that make me leave my Kiez ritually.

Not­with­stand­ing the bore­dom, the square is impress­ive– at night any­way. The Sony Cen­ter is in its traffic-beating heart, dressed in a fas­cin­at­ing light show. I remem­ber someone telling me that the whole thing used to be Europes largest build­ing site. I guess the res­ults are, to some extent, deserving of that record. That was in 1991. What was the Pots­damer Platz before that? In a nut­shell: when the Ber­lin Wall was built, it basic­ally par­ted the busy traffic inter­sec­tion on Pots­damer Platz in two. You will still see the memori­als and remains of the Wall there. The Wall res­ul­ted in a death­like isol­a­tion of the square. When it finally fell, a new oppor­tun­ity opened up to investors who could now acquire luc­rat­ive land right in the middle of new Ber­lin. They prob­ably wanted to com­pensate for the slow city devel­op­ment due to the his­tory and fast for­war­ded to a ridicu­lously futur­istic concept.

The new Pots­damer Platz was inten­ded to con­nect Ber­liners, give them a new quarter to roam in. But it’s not really a Kiez for Ber­liners. It’s more like Times Square, at least in per­spect­ive to the vis­it­ors who seem to love it. It’s bust­ling with people even after dark, but all those tall build­ings can’t make up for the lack of life. The mere fact that it lies so isol­ated within a lost part of the city cen­ter renders it dark and mys­ter­i­ous. Bleak and stale steel high rises dom­in­ate the pan­or­ama, one that feels uncom­fort­ably strange here. Some per­spect­ives, that non­des­cript loneli­ness, charged an asso­ci­ation to Gotham City. Cold and complex.

Whenever mod­ern­isa­tion crawls upon the famil­iar Alt­bau build­ings, the shabby but charm­ing 70ies archi­tec­ture and the leftover con­struc­tions of the GDR, the city faces its ini­tial tragedy. Ber­lins big com­plex is being the cap­ital of a late bloomer nation. All the other states had their own respect­ive met­ro­pol­ises — Lon­don, Paris, New York — but Ber­lin missed out due to the war(s) and the split. Its people there­fore presently show traits of schizo­phrenic dis­order. They want their con­ser­vat­ive look­ing, cul­ture pre­serving Ber­lin (and please don’t ask, because every­one has their own idea as to what this kind of Ber­lin resembles). Dis­reg­ard­ing that nos­tal­gic notion there’s also that under­ly­ing need to race the com­pet­i­tion. A large air­port? Impress­ive high rises? More commercialisation?

This dicho­tomy has grown into a very unique cat­egory of socio-structural char­ac­ter­ist­ics. The Pots­damer Platz is a good example for that. It’s neither fail­ure nor suc­cess. It seems dis­placed, out of con­text, attrib­utes that sim­ul­tan­eously make the Platz so pro­to­typ­ical Berlin.

  1. I remem­ber, that dur­ing con­struc­tion of the area they set up the “Infobox”: a build­ing of its own, a 60m long, hideous behemoth bal­anced on stilts, that rose from the con­struc­tion site’s muddy soil. I used to visit the inform­a­tion cen­ter as a kid a couple of times to learn about the con­struc­tion. In hind­sight, what was not aston­ish­ing, is that I could barely pic­ture the dimen­sions, but, as it turned out, as an East Ber­liner this site would never mean any­thing to me apart from being a bloated, cold office city that happened to have the once fun Imax theater and one of the best ice cream par­lours out there. How­ever, both have gone the way of the dodo.

  2. The Pos­damer Platz doesn’t look very under­gound, though I like your pho­tos. Where can I meet a lot of hip Aus­tralian people in Ber­lin? I’m des­per­ately look­ing for illegal raves without Ger­man people, any recom­mend­a­tions? Cheers, Ben

  3. Ben, the Pots­damer Platz is not at all under­ground. It’s quite the most touristy spot in Ber­lin.
    As for the rest: that’s quite the type of subtle trolling that I can truly appre­ci­ate, but I won’t bother reply­ing. If you actu­ally need to know where to find Aus­tralian people and raves without Ger­mans: prob­ably Australia.

  4. For those who want to relive the hole con­struc­tion of the Pots­damer Platz there is a great Movie of it: “80000 Shots” from Man­fred Wal­ter. Impress­ive 80000 Stop-Motion Film of the Pots­damer Platz from des­troy­ing the Wall in 1990 till 2000. I have seen it for rent in the Filmkun­st­bar Fitz Caraldo or you can buy it in Man­fred Wal­ters († 2011] former shop ASA90 (Neuk­öln) :) enjoy!

  5. I have a hard time under­stand­ing why so many tour­ists want to go there, some­how it has achieved some kind of top-10 status in guide­books or Ber­lin myth­o­logy, I think mainly based on the cold war situ­ation and the prox­im­ity to Branden­bur­ger Tor rather than what’s there today. (Then again, in Paris I made a point of vis­it­ing La Defence). I’m curi­ous to see if fin­ish­ing the recon­struc­tion of Leipzi­ger Platz will bring more life to the gen­eral area, but as it’s mainly more offices and shops I doubt it.
    To add to Sebastian’s Tipp: also check the film Ber­lin Babylon about the con­struc­tion of the com­plex in the 1990s, with music by Ein­stürzende Neubauten. http://​www​.imdb​.com/​t​i​t​l​e​/​t​t​0​2​7​6​819

What others had to say about it

  1. […] everything. If your par­ents only have a lim­ited time-span, do it like this: take a walk from Pots­damer Platz through Tier­garten and pay a visit to the Haus der Kul­turen der Welt, where you’ll surely […]