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Requiem for a lost Palast. 'Revanchist urban planning' and 'burdened landscapes' of the German Democratic Republic in the new Berlin

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This paper discusses on the fate of the public buildings and public spaces inherited from the socialist era in contemporary Berlin, with a particular focus on one of the 'burdened landscapes' of the German Democratic Republic, the Spree Island (Spreeinsel). This site, due to its symbolic significance in the history of the city, has been the focus of complex architectural, political and cultural debates shaped by tensions between different collective memories and conflicting visions of what the new urban landscapes of reunified Berlin should be. The paper documents the fifteen-year debate on the future of the Spreeinsel, in particular the controversies surrounding the demolition of the Palast der Republik and the proposed reconstruction of the Berliner Stadtschloss (Royal Castle). It is argued that the conflicts surrounding the site are at the intersection of two intermingled processes: on the one hand, the politics of collective memory and identity (re)construction through architecture and planning, on the other, the renegotiation of the social uses and public nature of a strategic inner-city site in a market economy. The latter has become more prominent in recent years. Analyses of post-socialist urban landscapes should consequently be embedded within a wide political economy approach casting light on the complex relationships between material processes of urban restructuring, the symbolic economy of the post-Fordist city and the real and symbolic ownership of strategic inner-city space.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Bartlett School of Planning, University College London, London, UK

Publication date: July 1, 2007

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