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Berlin, Germany – Zvi Hecker proposes a public 'reunification' square

In protesst at municipal apathy, Zvi Heckler plans a new public platz for Berlin

Who really builds the city? Despite being the capital of a reunified Germany, Berlin is probably the country’s poorest metropolis. Reduced tax returns and increasing unemployment in a time of international financial crisis make politicians and planners easy prey for investors’ demands. Big architectural projects for a Potemkin city palace or development of the former Tempelhof Airport remain airy visions of the future, while many built projects are empty. There is nothing so galling for city planners as having nothing to plan.

To fill the creative void, new public spaces appear a cheaper option, as well as a practical way of stringing together the disparate projects that have sprung up since 1989. Last year, Berlin held an open ideas competition for the area to the west of Brandenburg Gate. But, overwhelmed by 600 submissions, the city later cancelled the competition without a result.

In protest, Zvi Hecker, an Israeli architect based in Berlin and Amsterdam, has publicised his idea for an open, democratic public platz, which he presents as a critique on the current Berlin situation. ‘New monuments are not needed, and this is the best place for a people’s square, between east and west, dense city structures and the Tiergarten park. Why not call it Reunification Platz?’ he suggests.

To the east of Brandenburg Gate is Pariser Platz, which, despite its uninspiring architecture, is at least a reception area leading into the Unter den Linden boulevard. Tourists wandering through the gate from Pariser Platz to the west look round in bewilderment when confronted by a racetrack highway without orientation. This former militarised western zone has never been truly won back by the people. Here, in 1987, US president George Bush stood demanding that the Soviets pull down the wall. In the intervening decades the area has been patriarchally managed as a beer and circus venue. In between such events there is no protected public space in which to sit, read, talk, or walk a dachshund.

Hecker offers three options, all centred around an oval, hard-landscaped space with seating and a central water feature, in the style of early 20th-century Berlin.

The first is a complete elimination of the traffic; the second an oval space around which traffic to the Reichstag, Tiergarten and Potsdamer Platz is diverted; the third a shared space for both public and traffic. The second option seems most viable, making a pedestrian connection between Pariser Platz and Hecker’s Reunification Platz by way of the Brandenburg Gate.

Combining symbolism, functionality and a reasonable budget for implementation, it will be hard for the Berlin Senate’s director of building, Regula Lüscher, to ignore this scheme, which is on show at the city’s Aedes am Pfefferberg Gallery until 25 April.

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