Comprehensive guide to Berlin Germany with information on Sights.

Berlin Urban Development

What Berlin lacks in urban beauty, it makes up for in its deep and embattled cultural history, leaving a trail of shifts, schisms, and breaks.

Today's Berlin still finds itself trying schizophrenically to erase those trails, while struggling to preserve them.

Berlin used to boast as "the largest building site in Europe" - Potsdamer Platz . The Infobox(right) drew millions of tourists to the displays of the history of this former hub of the city and the future of the newly designed square. Now the future is upon us. As the last of the post-reunification building projects reaches completion, so the skyline of cranes on Potsdamer Platz has been replaced by something reminscent of an urban skyline out of some movie set. The lakes and holes in the ground have filled again. Alas, the Infobox, which had over the years become a fixture on this site, finally served its purpose and was auctioned off in pieces at the end of 2000. During the summer months the city marketing company Partner für Berlin turns the city centre into a "Schaustelle" (a conflation of the German words for building site and show), but increasingly, the buildings themselves, often in combination with cultural and/or shopping events, become pieces of the exhibition.

Over the past sixteen years since the opening of the wall the city, and especially the centre, have changed dramatically. "Das Neue Berlin" (the New Berlin) has become an official concept. The major development projects, besides Potsdamer Platz (below), are:
  • the historic core of the city around the shopping and office district Friedrichstraße;
  • the Reichstag and the Regierungsviertel (government quarter);
  • and a new high-speed international rail hub at Lehrter Bahnhof.
    Apart from these high-profile projects numerous smaller projects and renovation and (re-)construction simply pervade the city, particularly the centre and eastern districts. For strolling around the areas with the most interesting changes Berlin-Offene Stadt (Open City) - a city government initiative turning the city into an exhibition, "open not only around the clock, but also open for change and international encounters." Further information can be found on the city´s website or , and the guide Berlin: Offene Stadt/Die Stadt als Ausstellung/Der Wegweiser can be obtained in most bookshops, both in German and in English.

    As is often the case with urban development, there is also another side to redevelopment (Sanierung) in Berlin. Outside the spotlight of the high-profile projects for "Berlin - the new capital city" and "Berlin - the new metropolis between east and west," many districts are in need of continuous urban social renewal. Funds, however, have either been cut or redirected, e.g. from Kreuzberg and Neukölln (the poorest districts with still a large number of unrenovated tenements from the turn of the 20th century) to Prenzlauer Berg and Friedrichshain, the two inner city districts in the eastern part of the city. Another (inevitable) consequence of this development is gentrification, which has particularly taken hold in Mitte (the central distict) and Prenzlauer Berg. These districts have seen the influx of younger, international, affluent inhabitants to newly renovated apartments, a blossoming of "post modern" industries, accompanying shops and wine bar/restaurant culture. While this trend replaces a proportion of the original population this is not as exclusive or divisive a development as it has been in some other cities. So far, there is still a healthy mix including un- (or part-)renovated buildings, small firms, working, shopping , culture and recreation , a population of all ages and a subculture, something for which Berlin has long been famous.

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