Postcard from... Berlin


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The Independent Online


East Germany blew up the bombed out shell of Berlin’s former Prussian Royal Palace in 1950. The communists said the ruin was an unwanted symbol of a despised imperial past.

Twenty years later, they erected a concrete-and-glass Palace of the Republic on the same spot. But after the fall of the Berlin Wall, influential West Germans secured the demolition of the communist palace and the reconstruction of its predecessor.

Rebuilding is underway – but the next battle over Berlin’s architectural legacy has begun. It concerns four 1970s concrete tower blocks which surround east Berlin’s Alexanderplatz. With names such as the House of Travel and House of Electro-Technology, they are like something out of 1984. Many Berliners say they are uglier than the former communist palace and deserve a similar fate.

Politicians claim they stand in the way of development. But conservationists argue that, as most of the Wall has already disappeared, demolition of the blocks will mean there is even less to serve as a reminder of the communist past.

The House of Travel would be a suitably ironic monument to the former East Germany – a state that did its best to prevent its citizens travelling anywhere.