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MUDD 21 - City Visions II

Berlin since the Fall of the Wall Karl Fischer

Like no other capital city in Western Europe, Berlin has been exposed to ups and downs in growth expectations leading to radical turns in strategic decisions of urban planning and urban design since 1989 in parallel with persisting cultural controversies. To understand the current scene of urbanism in Berlin as a basis for meaningful interventions we have to see what has been happening in these fields since the 1980s. Following the fall of the wall in 1989, Berlin quickly became an exceptionally vibrant cultural metropolis in Europe. On the one hand, the reunified city was discovered as a Sleeping Beauty and as an object for investment by global financial interests. In fact, this happened twice – first in the office sector in Berlin’s centre and then, after the Global Financial Crisis, in the housing sector. Initially, these investment activities were focused on the redevelopment of Potsdamer Platz and the area around the famous boulevard “Unter den Linden” and along Friedrichstrasse in former socialist East Berlin. This area quickly became an arena for real estate speculation driven by globalized capital in search for investment options that seemed to be missing elsewhere. The area had been one of the most important commercial centres of Berlin before World War II and seemed to be an attractive point of entry for developers now that this part of the city was accessible for them. But overall, the prices for land and property, as well as rents, remained surprisingly low for another decade, and so did the cost of living. This was a basis for a clustering of artistically creative workers, for the growth of an alternative cultural scene, and for what we might call a classic bohemian and arts culture, measurable also in the burgeoning of urban cultural tourism and related service industries. In addition, the absence of fees at universities – just as in most other places in Germany –helped foster a lively student scene. Until today, the city thrives on the urbanisation economies of artistic innovation, but Berlin’s economy is still relatively weak. The growth of jobs at a level as might have been expected by Richard Florida’s arguments in Cities and the Creative Class (2004) has not happened. This is highlighted by the description chosen by Berlin’s mayor in 2004 as “poor but sexy”. Berlin was called a “renters’ city” (“Mieterstadt”), because it had a higher percentage of rented housing than any other German city; and German cities have a higher proportion of rented housing than most cities in Europe anyway. While this is still the case, a strong current towards privatisation of housing began in 1989. This development laid the foundation for today’s huge housing shortage that had found little recognition at the official political level until the arrival of the wave of refugee from the Middle East and Africa in 2015. Today, this is certainly Berlin’s greatest challenge. But there is a range of other challenges that have been present

Professor Karl Fischer

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Mudd folio final 02 mar 2016  
Mudd folio final 02 mar 2016  

City Visions: Method & Design Chicago | Berlin | Sydney International Studio workshops from the Masters of Urban Development & Design degree...