Save Berlin: Battles in the sky



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vertically challenged

Nice article. As much as I like the idea of skyscrapers dotting the city myself - there is the space for it - I think the idea needs to be reexamined, updated and integrated in a responsible way in that it fluidly fits into the city structure, adding new energy into the city, as well as positively changing civilian habits and also making it adaptable to the evolving nature of a city’s demographic.

What I would propose instead is the creation of mix-used public/private multi-level buildings. Not exactly skyscrapers, neither shopping malls, but something like the Sony Center, which was consciously modeled after shopping centers in Tokyo and Hong Kong, two cities that are very good at integrating shopping/entertainment/living/transit systems and public spaces into the urban fabric. basically, the kind of urban experience you don’t feel you want to escape immediately, but enjoy hanging around too while having a normal-priced well-made lunch on the 8th floor cantine overlooking the city.

Granted, the Sony Center is kind of a disaster because of its location - there’s nothing to do in the Potsdamer Platz area besides shopping for the usual brands, looking at landmarks, visiting your embassy, etc. It’s a garish attempt at revitalizing the Death Strip into the semblance of a strip mall. it’s the only example i could think of here where this kind of urban architectural model could be integrated into other districts, without being at the expense of most of its inhabitants, if done with very carefully considered planning and research, including the involvement of people outside of architecture and urban planning.

That said, the success of HK-style malls is well documented among architects and urban planners. Though, HK is an expensive city and a lot of people’s lives there revolve around shopping, eating out, working hard, spending / making money, so there is a cultural aspect here intrinsic to HK. But I’d still like to see European/Berlin versions of HK-style malls, tailored to the city.. the questions is whether there is a desire for it. People here can be a bit precious with their love of its 19th century architecture, which i love myself. i love the courtyard layouts here, but it will need some updating if it wants stay relevant to its citizens lifestyles in the next decades and centuries.

New architecture / urban planning doesn’t necessarily equal gentrification and nouveau-riche interests - it really depends on budget limits, construction materials, the vested interests of private investors, the financial goals of architectural contractors, and the city councillors who enable these decisions. I reckon a tax-reform would be necessary to initiate these kind of complex projects, especially if mixed-use public structures are integrated into these buildings.

Patrick Defasten Doan more than 3 years ago

Outside the box

Hi Patrick,

I agree that Berlin's planners are too rigid in their thinking. They divide the city into gridded plots of land and assign each a strict function: flats, office, shopping. When I interviewed Regula Lüscher earlier this year, she described this amazing new idea she was pondering, mixing different uses in one building.

The Sony Center is actually a successful example because its mix of functions feed on each other to create a lively and popular "public" space, like a traditional town square. There's no reason Berlin's housing companies couldn't create similar mixed-use projects that offset the cost of subsidized housing with retail and office space.

Dan Borden more than 3 years ago

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