Germany // Berlin and Brandenburg //

Potsdamer Platz

The skyscrapers of Potsdamer Platz, which soar beside the Kulturforum, represent Berlin at its most thrustingly commercial and cosmopolitan. Said to have been the busiest square in prewar Europe, Potsdamer Platz was once surrounded by stores, bars and clubs, and pulsed with life day and night. The war left it severely battered, though immediately afterwards it regained some vitality as a black market centre at the junction of the Soviet, American and British sectors. This ended with the coming of the Wall: all the buildings on the eastern side were razed to give the GDR’s border guards a clear field of fire, while the West put no real money into restoring its battered survivors. For years western tourists could gaze at the East from a viewing platform here, and ponder the sight of prewar tramlines disappearing under the Wall. The Wall’s dismantling then produced a premier lot, which was quickly carved up by multinationals who frantically built bold architectural forms for obligatory shopping malls with restaurants, cafés, a theatre, and a film multiplex with 3D cinema. Its tallest building – the red-brick skycraper that’s a nod to the Chicago school of architecture – has on its top floor Panorama Punkt, an outdoor viewing deck with views to rival the Fernsehturm.

The Sony Center

The bravely twenty-first-century glass cylinder of the Helmut Jahn-designed Sony Center is the most eye-catching building on Potsdamer Platz. Several glass-sheathed buildings surround an airy, circular courtyard, sheltered by a conical glass rotunda, creating a huge atrium. In one building the Filmmuseum Berlin provides a superb introduction to the history of German cinema and television using a bevy of clips, reconstructions and artefacts, many relating to Marlene Dietrich.

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