A Brief History of Berlin Before Unification


Berlin, 2014

As a master urban management student in TU Berlin, I think I have a little responsibillities to convey a brief information to my friends about my city where I live. Actually, I keen that Paris and London is more fancy than Berlin, but the lesson learn of this city is totally amazing. The museum and the building is speaking in silence about how this city struggling in many policy experience from Weimar Republic era, world war, and separation era.

Berlin Pre- World War II (Finding identity toward the Golden Age)

Berlin foundation (with the city of Cöln) was built in 1652 close to Spree River and designed like a bubble-rounded city. In fact, at the time, Berlin was a quite modern city with its main church and housing buildings comparing to the other city like London or Paris. After the Prussia Kingdom made Berlin as the capital, precisely in 1866-1918 the city was extended sidelong Chalotenburg, Kreuzberg, and Schöneberg village with very low rise building, and the core of the city was still on Mitte.  The Berlin region was surrounded by ´the tax wall´ to excise tax from citizen and new settler, and keep the soldier stay inside the city.

Berlin was addressing population rapid growth issue during 20- 30 years due to countryside dwellers migration, who were attracted by job vacancies at that time in Berlin. Hence, the population increased to 4 million and caused many unlivable housing issue.

The Golden Age of Berlin was happening while Weimar Republic founded in economy prosperity, and transform intellectual ideas to build Berlin in such of great ideas. They held architecture exhibition to gather concept of city beautification from many international architect. However, the major obstacle to achieve implementation of ´the big plan´ is the global crisis that affected the financing of many project.

Berlin post War (Re-planning the city)

NAZI was bring new modern idea about Berlin, but never realized it because the finance was diverted into the war. However, approximately, more than 70% of Berlin buildings were destroyed during the war. Berlin lost many signature historical buildings which functioned as its identity such as Hauptbanhof, Zooligischergarten station, Kufürstendamn, etc.

After the war, Berlin was divided up into 2 parts by the western allies where one the parts was owned by France, UK, US and the others was Uni-Soviet´s. Both of the part of city was bombed with a huge money in order to developed and restore the city to its splendor.

At the time, East Berlin was functioned as East Germany capital city, while, on the other hand, West Berlin was no longer functioned as capital city, since the allies (US, UK, and France) prefer to put it in Bonn. Consequently, many industries moved out from Berlin including siemens and mercedes, and it lost more than 3 million jobs at the time. Hence, the city was highly subsidized in particular sector (housing, industry, and government officer) to keep people live in The West Berlin.

Planners and architect attempt to build Berlin with new modern impression about Berlin trough car friendly city development approach, and demolished many old building, to starting new point. However, afterwards, this idea was stopped after people raising protest, and forced government to keep European city identity in Berlin.

The East Berlin was highly desirable to build plattenbau (massive fabricated housing) projects, in order to supply new settlements, since many post war building were deteriorated.

In the early of unification Berlin tried to rearrange the districts from 23 to be 12, by dealing  with many planning and architecture exhibition to gathering ideas of city reconstruction, including Postdamer Platz redevelopment for modern world-class business district, in order to create new image and foster investment in service business sector. On the other hand, the housing settlements was highly subsidized to reduce the rent rate. The government keep tried to make this city more attractive for many worker, and bring industries to invest again in this city. Hence, that’s policy was made Berlin become the cheapest metropolitan city in Europe.

berlin tram: the east berlin legacy

Achmad Faris Saffan Sunarya


Satu pemikiran pada “A Brief History of Berlin Before Unification

  1. I have to say that Berlin got me hooked because of its history of the WWII and its urban lifestyle yet not as expensive as other famous European capital such as Paris. But i didn’t keen on how “dirty” the city was when I was there, riz.

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