Berlin, Alexanderplatz

Berlin, Alexanderplatz: Transforming Place in a Unified Germany

Gisa Weszkalnys
Series: Space and Place
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 226
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  • Book Info
    Berlin, Alexanderplatz
    Book Description:

    A benchmark study in the changing field of urban anthropology,Berlin, Alexanderplatzis an ethnographic examination of the rapid transformation of the unified Berlin. Through a captivating account of the controversy around this symbolic public square in East Berlin, the book raises acute questions about expertise, citizenship, government and belonging. Based on ethnographic fieldwork in the city administration bureaus, developers' offices, citizen groups and in Alexanderplatz itself, the author advances a richly innovative analysis of the multiplicity of place. She reveals how Alexanderplatz is assembled through the encounters between planners, citizen activists, social workers, artists and ordinary Berliners, in processes of popular participation and personal narratives, in plans, timetables, documents and files, and in the distribution of pipes, tram tracks and street lights. Alexanderplatz emerges as a socialist spatial exemplar, a 'future' under construction, an object of grievance, and a vision of robust public space. This book is both a critical contribution to the anthropology of contemporary modernity and a radical intervention in current cross-disciplinary debates on the city.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-835-5
    Subjects: Anthropology, Architecture and Architectural History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. ix-ix)
    (pp. x-xi)
    (pp. xii-xii)
  6. Chapter I Introduction
    (pp. 1-30)

    This book is about a place in time and a time in place. It tells a story about Alexanderplatz, a public square of outstanding symbolic significance in contemporary Berlin. Alfred Döblin’s celebrated novelBerlin Alexanderplatz – The Story of Franz Biberkopf, first published in 1929, has turned Alexanderplatz into a famous trope of fiction. Döblin cast Alexanderplatz as a conduit of the complexities of a city transformed by the Great War, new forms of transportation and means of communication. Its intensity seemed to defy narrative conventions, and Döblin borrowed from cinematic montage to combine incongruent images, documents and disparate voices....

  7. Chapter II Constructing a Future Berlin
    (pp. 31-67)

    Berlin is not just any city. It has critical significance as Germany’s new capital. It was also the city that Hitler sought to transform into Germania and that bears the painful memory of the Jewish genocide. During the Cold War, it was a key symbol of the world’s division into two antagonistic camps. Retrospectively, Berlin has come to appear a social laboratory for the making of twin nations. Following the Second World War until the fall of the Wall in 1989, the city had been geopolitically marginal and simultaneously central, from an eastern perspective, as the comparatively prosperous capital of...

  8. Chapter III The Disintegration of a Socialist Exemplar
    (pp. 68-88)

    In the summer of 2002, the twenty-first world congress of architecture was held in Berlin. In this context, a public discussion took place in a small art gallery in Berlin’s central district, Mitte. The discussion brought together a number of speakers familiar from Berlin’s impassioned planning debates including, amongst others, Uwe Rada, known for his critical writing as editor of Berlin’s left-leaning newspaperdie tageszeitung, and urban theorist Dieter Hoffmann-Axthelm, a theologian turned architectural critic and a key figure in Berlin’s planning debates. In this discussion, Alexanderplatz was invoked as a vehicle for examining possibilities for integrating ‘Eastern’ and ‘Western...

  9. Chapter IV Promising Plans
    (pp. 89-113)

    This chapter will look at the planning of Alexanderplatz or, more specifically, at Alexanderplatz as a troubled urban planning project. In the early 1990s, Alexanderplatz was identified as a problem of urban design. A solution was to be found through an urban design competition, launched by the Senat’s Administration for Urban Development (SenStadt) in 1993. The winning design was to provide the basis for future constructions in the square. Following the competition, the Berlin Senat proceeded to establish a public-private partnership and to sign so-called urban development contracts with prospective investors. After a series of public deliberations and revisions, the...

  10. Chapter V The Object of Grievance
    (pp. 114-137)

    How was the planning for Alexanderplatz apprehended by Berlin’s residents? This chapter examines in much more detail some of the urban cultural practices that have as their object of concern Berlin and its transformation, as I began to discuss in Chapter II. Set up as a public-private partnership and surrounded by a host of events seeking popular participation, the Alexanderplatz project generated concerns about the legitimacy of the planning decisions taken and the role of experts and citizens in the process. Alexanderplatz emerged as an ‘object of grievance’. The grievances at issue, as we shall see, were largely those of...

  11. Chapter VI A Robust Square
    (pp. 138-161)

    In this chapter, Alexanderplatz unfolds through a project initiated by a group of social workers that worked with young people in the square. The project sought to constitute Alexanderplatz as aPlatz für junge Menschen. This was a play on words: Alexanderplatz was to be both a publicPlatz, or ‘square’, and somewhere where there was aPlatz, or ‘place’, for young people. I suggest that ‘Alexanderplatz: a place for young people’ was a demonstration, in the sense of ‘making visible a phenomenon to be witnessed by others’ (Barry 2001: 178), similar to the efforts of the Bürgervertretung. In this...

  12. Chapter VII Whose Alexanderplatz?
    (pp. 162-172)

    A muggy, thundery air was hanging over Berlin on the day in May 2002 when SenStadt representatives and the developers signed the amended urban development contracts setting down their mutual rights and obligations in relation to Alexanderplatz. Whilst upstairs in the RKA office the property relations regarding Alexanderplatz had been confirmed once again, down in the square the question of who owned Alexanderplatz and who owned urban space, more generally, was being negotiated quite differently.

    When I left the RKA, a little dizzy from the champagne with which we had celebrated the occasion, the atmosphere seemed tense. Numerous police vans...

  13. NOTES
    (pp. 173-177)
    (pp. 178-202)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 203-214)