Berlin Beckons to the Future
Barbara Motycka, Resident Manager of Citadines Kurfürstendamm Berlin, shares the city's modern attractions with rich memories of the past
Issue: Jun 2012
Berlin, a centre of politics, commerce and culture in Europe, boasts modern architecture with history like the Reichstag’s modern dome atop the original neo-Classic structure
Many people associate Europe with old-world charm, scenic rivers, centuries-old cathedrals and castles. But there is also a side of Europe that is stylish, modern and futuristic with its ever-evolving architectural landscape and art. The capital city of Germany, Berlin, encapsulates this beautifully. It was an art and culture centre in the 17th century when thousands of craftsmen and scientists fled Catholic France for the city and, for centuries, was the seat of political and economic power. Having emerged from the ruins of World War II and the Cold War, the city has again transformed into a strong centre of economics, politics and advanced technology which is well represented by the modern outlook of its architecture found in various parts of the city centre.
The modern-looking Reichstag dome at sunset is lovely to behold from the outside and a great place to view the city from the inside
I have lived in Berlin for over a decade and every day the city continues to amaze me with its ability to capture the essence of its past while wholeheartedly embracing its future in its architecture, art and attractions.
One of the best places to appreciate the confluence of its glorious past and its current political status is at the Reichstag where the German parliamentary sittings have held since 1999. Built in 1849, the very architecture of the Reichstag reflects the coming together of past and future.
Since the reunification of Germany, new life has been breathed into the building. The building was reconstructed by world-renowned architect, Sir Norman Foster who added a controversial new, futuristic dome to the building. On the outside, for the most part, the structure still looks like the historic building it is. But on the inside, the future has taken hold. An inverted cone of mirrors takes centrestage within the dome, opening up to a skylight above and spiraling to the debating chamber for the Bundestag, the German Parliament, below. It channels and reflects light around, illuminating the chamber’s proceedings. The entire dome was designed to be a “sculpture of light” to reflect the new openness and democratic ideology of the German government. There is also a large sun shield that electronically tracks the sun’s movements and blocks out sunlight to keep the building cool.
I think the best way to appreciate the Reichstag is to take an audio tour of the building in the afternoon as
I often do. Then finish off in the evening by scaling the spiraling ramps in the dome to the rooftop terrace for a 360-view of Berlin as it surrenders to the deep blue night. From that vintage point, the panoramic view of the city with its modern and historic buildings side by side is simply fantastic.
Entry to the Reichstag is free but make sure you register online in advance as walk-ins are no longer allowed. To get to the Reichstag from Citadines Kurfürstendamm Berlin, take Bus 109 to Zoologischer Garte and then change to Bus 100. The central location of Citadines Kurfürstendamm Berlin within the city makes accessibility to any major attraction in Berlin a breeze.
Resident Manager of Citadines Kurfürstendamm Berlin, Barbara Motycka, shares her insights to the revitalised cityscape of historical Berlin
While you are in the neighbourhood, do visit the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe located near the Reichstag. Here is another example of how the city has mastered the art of paying tribute to its heritage while propelling itself into the future. The futuristic-looking memorial to victims of the Holocaust is designed by architect, Peter Eisenman. It consists of the Field of Stelae - 2,711 stelae or concrete slabs of territorial markers arranged in a grid pattern - and the underground Information Centre. Placed right in the middle of the city, Eisenman wanted this landmark to be a part of the daily lives of the people. Nowadays, children like to run around and play amongst the stelae. I like the futuristic style of the architecture and seeing how something so modern can remind us of our history, yet provide the future generation with a place to play and think.
A short walk away is Berlin Hauptbahnhof (Central Railway Station). Costing almost
€1 billion in construction cost and officially opened in May 2006, this train station is shrouded in a cathedral of glass and steel, a futuristic style favoured by architects in post-unified Germany to symbolise the transparency of the new Germany. I love the spacious feel of the huge halls that are filled with light because of the glass ceiling and walls, and the sophisticated system of large openings in the ceilings at all the levels. Because of the great quantity of glass used, the structure catches the colour of the sunset beautifully so evenings are a good time to visit. I always take visitors to the station for a short stop so that they can appreciate the bustle of one of Europe’s busiest train stations. Within Hauptbahnhof is a labyrinth of shops and restaurants that give you a reason to visit it even if you have no intention of going anywhere.
The latest futuristic attraction to be added to the city is the Humboldt Box, a unique information centre and a sterling example of modern architecture. The hexagonal silver-blue structure is a temporary fixture that was unveiled in June 2011 and will sit on a downtown square till the completion of the Humboldt Forum in 2019. Originally designed to be an information centre for the Forum - a massive development plan to build a new City Palace, extend the Berlin State Museum and Humboldt University - the Humboldt Box houses information on the progress of this construction.
Currently, it has a restaurant and hosts exhibitions. The modern design of the building is deliberate and is an interesting contrast to the construction of the buildings that will remind us of the city’s past. I recommend a visit to this place if you want information on how the city of Berlin will unfold in the future.
The Humboldt Box is an information centre of some of the city’s development of its historic buildings, bringing future and past together in one place
Photo credit: dailyphotostream.blogspot.com
With Berlin’s reputation as a rising fashion capital, you should not leave the city without doing some shopping. If you have only time for one place, then I strongly recommend Kaufhaus des Westens (Department Store of the West) or KaDeWe as we call it for short. Located in the west of Berlin, it is within walking distance of Citadines Kurfürstendamm Berlin. Spanning 60,000 square metres and seven floors, it is the second largest departmental store in Europe, rivaled only by Harrods in London. You can get just about everything there: furniture, clothes, cosmetics, crockery, souvenirs, and electronic goods. Each floor features a different type of product so navigating the mall is quite easy. On the top floor is a winter garden with a restaurant that offers a great view of the Wittenbergplatz, the city square. I like to go to KaDeWe in winter because of the unusual Christmas decorations it spots.
As you can see, Berlin is a city that is constantly transforming, forging ahead to embrace its future. You can witness this forward-looking philosophy in the very architecture of its buildings and in the psyche of its people. Come to Berlin, and see the future unfold.
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