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original Bauakademie, demolished to build the East German foreign ministry, acts as a tantalising invitation to recreateone particular past; where an imperial palace gateway stands incorporated in the walls of the old communist party headquarters. Many gradations between these extremes have been tested, though Berlin’s most controversial rebuilding project yet awaits funding – the complete recreation of the Berliner Schloss.


Meanwhile, at a smaller scale, intelligent consideration of the past and the present has brought wholly new buildings in a manner thoroughly responsive to a recognisably German and wider continental European tradition. Facades of tile and brick and ceramic rather than glass present solidity to the street, and hide surprises concealed in courtyards beyond. It is a rewarding scene.


Every city has its memories. In Berlin the war is now a memory respected and reconciled. The Wall is a memory still live. A glance to the west yields a glimpse of the Teufelsberg, almost the only hill in a very flat city. It is composed of rubble from the city destroyed in the war, on its brow a derelict Cold War listening post which once gathered the signals of division.


Does the mode of loss drive the mode of reconstruction? Does that explain the rebuilding of the museums and Schinkel’s works but the removal of most traces of the GDR? These are questions with no easy answers, even a generation after the last trauma to visit this city. Today's architects are merely assisting the search for answers.






Posted 2011 after a week in the city. Names of places, institutions and streets have been given in German, albeit with ‘ß’ rendered as ‘ss’ for easier reading for an English audience. Image captions appear below

Ber - twr
Ber - twr base
Ber - Neu 1

Part 1: The exterior of Norman Foster’s reworked Reichstag conceals preserved and wholly new interiors; the rooftop dome with its spiral ramp allows a view of the city’s built timeline


Part 2: Hans Kollhoff’s powerful massing and superb brick finish merge national and international heritage at Potsdamer Platz 1. Nearby, Richard Rogers’ Linkstrasse offices are wholly contemporary, with…


Part 3: …strong concern for detail. They appear at bottom left of a long view of the DaimlerChrysler site, dominated by Renzo Piano’s Debis tower which is notable for his outstanding use of ceramic cladding and water. The former Congress Hall for Hugh Stubbins was the West’s first shot in the post-war architectural battle;


Part 4: the Fernsehturm was one answer from the East. David Chipperfield has re-made the Neues Museum for a unified Berlin.

Ber - Neu 2
Ber - Neu 3
Ber - Neu 4

Chris Rogers  |  Writer on architecture and visual culture

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