Berlin's Potsdamer Platz - Planning in a local, national and global context

Bachelor Thesis, 2007

53 Pages, Grade: High Pass



1 Introduction
1.1 Aim of this thesis
1.2 Delimitation
1.3 Methods and material
1.4 Structure of this bachelor thesis

2 Background
2.1 History of the Potsdamer Platz
2.2 Short facts about the Potsdamer Platz today

3 The theory behind the global city

4 The Potsdamer Platz – a way of pushing Berlin towards a global city?

5 Theories of urban development strategies

6 The new Germany? – The Potsdamer Platz as a sign of economic power?

7 Theories of public space in cities and ambient power at public places

8 Privatisation of public space and ambient power at the Potsdamer Platz in Berlin?

9 Conclusion

10 Summary


Appendix 1

Appendix 2

1 Introduction

The move of the capital city from Bonn to Berlin in Germany was highly debated in both the daily press and in the academic world after the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. Germany was reunified and somehow a new country. The building of the new German capital Berlin is also strongly discussed. Berlin became a place for renewal and city development. During the 1990s and in the beginning of the new millennium Berlin went through many different development projects like the renewal of the Friedrichstraße in East Berlin and the development of the new/old government quarter (Regierungsviertel). The Potsdamer Platz is just another place of the places discussed in Germany. The case of Berlin as a new German identity or the face of a newly reunified Germany, features prominently in different academic journals. Despite that is the issue of people’s identification with places and the identity of space along with gentrification and planning are issued in some theoretical discussions through out the academic world. Identity, power and public places along with planning are issues that are very important, when it comes to Berlin and the new Germany. Berlin’s development is very interesting to analyse, because Berlin and the development or redevelopment deals with different aspects of Germany’s history as well as with economic or social aspects. The decision of the German government to move the German capital from Bonn to Berlin was very important for Berlin’s development as the new/old capital city of Germany and the federal government invested heavily on the redevelopment of Berlin (Heineberg 2001: 236-238).

Dealing with 20th-century history is understandably a very sensitive issue in Germany. Berlin has tried to do that in different ways, for example by the exhibitions in the German Historical Museum (see Till 2001 Reimagining National Identiy) or the building of different monuments dedicated to the victims of the Nazi terror or the DDR regime, but they have not been without critique (see Wiese 1998: 145-156 or Marcuse 1998).

I hope to contribute to the existing and very interesting debates with a critical analysis of some influential articles with the help of empirical material, which I collected in Berlin. The entire debates makes it very interesting to take a closer look on the case of the Potsdamer Platz in Berlin to understand the process of planning, power, identity and public spaces in the new German capital city.

1.1 Aims of this thesis

The aims of this thesis are to take a closer look at the process of planning a new German capital city and to make sense of a place that is highly discussed in academic articles. I want to find out what plans are behind the new Potsdamer Platz and what was the purpose of these plans. What impression does the place Potsdamer Platz give. To live up to this aim I will focus on three themes, which will help to investigate the Potsdamer Platz and the planning of a new German capital city. These themes are:

- 1. The global city of Berlin – What is a global city? Is the Potsdamer Platz a sign for the development towards a global city? Was the global city aspect important for the planning of the Potsdamer Platz? (Global)
- 2. A new face of Germany – Does the Potsdamer Platz show a new face of Germany, when it comes to economic power? What were the thoughts behind the new Potsdamer Platz? And how does the academic world see that? (National)
- 3. Privatisation of public places – Is the Potsdamer Platz a public or a private place and what are the problems/opportunities with that? What does theory say about that and what is the case at the Potsdamer Platz? – Does the Potsdamer Platz seduce to consumption? (Local)

These three themes are the basics, the ground of my research, which I will investigate. They are all connected to each other, but I will analyse them separately and bring them together again in the conclusions. To a better understanding of my work I discuss my delimitations in the next chapter and after that, in the chapter methods and empirical material, I discuss the methods and my the material I use for my bachelor thesis and which I use to investigate the three themes above.

1.2 Delimitation

The Potsdamer Platz, which I will investigate in this bachelor thesis, is located in the city centre of Berlin, south of the Bandenburger Tor and near the famous Checkpoint Charlie, where Russian and American tanks were standing against each other and showing their power on October 27th 1961. On the Potsdamer Platz are many new buildings with different functions. Most of them are office buildings, but some are apartments, shops and restaurants, bars or cafés. There are also other cultural activities at the Potsdamer Platz, like cinemas and museums. The place is completely planned through during the 1990s, because after world war two basically everything was destroyed and the Potsdamer Platz was located on the border between East Germany and West Germany. Today the main buildings are the Sony Centre where the Sony Company has its European headquarter and the Daimler Chrysler complex with the shopping centre Arkaden. Daimler Chrysler is one of the most important protagonists in the development of the Potsdamer Platz, because they own most of the soil. Several other companies located are located on the Potsdamer Platz in Berlin.

My research is local, within the global context and the national context of Germany. I will investigate the Potsdamer Platz in Berlin at the present time, but I will also go briefly back in history, on order to give a better picture and a better understanding of the Potsdamer Platz today.

1.3 Methods and material

To investigate the Potsdamer Platz with the starting point in the three themes, I described in the last chapter, I basically use four different methods. The first method is literature analysis. I analyse important scientific articles and books chapters to get an overview of theories about the three themes and Berlins Potsdamer Platz. The articles and books I chose for this thesis are all written of highly respected researchers in the field and are very use full for my own research about the Potsdamer Platz in Berlin. I am aware of the fact, that my conclusions and my research could have been different, if I had chosen other articles and books. But the selection of the literature is diverse as well as it is from researchers with good experience in the themes I chose above. For a closer description of literature analysis see Textual analysis: reading culture and context by Aitken 2005.

To test the theories I use two methods of collecting empirical material relevant for the test of the theories and not collected by the authors of the articles and books I analyse and one to help me with to get a better understanding of the thoughts behind the planning of the Potsdamer Platz (even though the collected data will also help me with the analysis of the Potsdamer Platz). These three methods are interviews, plan analysis and observations. I visited Berlin from November 7th 2006 to November 12th 2006. During this period I was able to get an appointment at the Berliner Senatsverwaltung für Stadtentwicklung with the responsible planner of the Potsdamer Platz, Mr. Stanierowski. This was a long, deep and unstructured interview (about 2 hours). During that interview I received several papers, which are the ground source behind the planning of the Potsdamer Platz. These are the documents of the advertising for the development of the ground concepts of the Potsdamer Platz, the detailed plans of the Potsdamer Platz (the concept of the architects Hilmer and Sattler, who got the contract of developing the ground concepts of the Potsdamer Platz) and the decision of the city government about the pans and advertising for the development of the ground concepts of the Potsdamer Platz. From the homepage of the Senatsverwaltung für Stadtentwicklung I got even more plans of the Potsdamer Platz. These papers together with the documents from I got from Mr. Stanierowski are the one I use for the method plan analysis. Besides this interview I also interviewed 8 different people at the Potsdamer Platz, including a security guard at the Sony Centre, a receptionist at the entry of the Daimler Chrysler Corporation and a lady at the information desk in the shopping centre Arkaden, owned by Daimler Chrysler. All these interviews were so called unstructured interviews and were more short than long (about 10 minutes per person). For a deeper understanding of the method interviews, both when it comes to collecting and analysing, see Tell me about it…: using interviews as a research methodology by Gill Valentine 2005 and chapter 5 in Practising Human Geography by Cloke and others 2004.During my stay in Berlin I visited the Potsdamer Platz every day for several hours to do visual observations. I tried to get a feeling for the place called Potsdamer Platz and to observe the architecture and the people at the Potsdamer Platz. I looked at the people at the Potsdamer Platz to observe their behaviour and their activities, which means I looked at them I tried to figure out if they are consuming something, for example. It was important to me to really feel the place and the activities around the Potsdamer Platz, which is also why I went to the cinema in the Sony Centre and watched a movie there, just to know what it feels like to actually use the Potsdamer Platz and be there. One can find different symbols in the architecture and that is worth observing and analysing. To get a better feeling of the Potsdamer Platz even at home I took many pictures and filmed the architecture and the people. These symbols represent different thing like power or economic power for example (Rose 2002: 137-138, 166-167, 170, Crang 1998: 31-36, Aitken and Crain 2005: 250-255).

The methods I use for my investigation of the Potsdamer Platz are especially useful, because they capture the empirical data needed to get a deep understanding for the Potsdamer Platz and the common academic literature, which provides me both with theories and hypotheses about the Potsdamer Platz. This approach is more a qualitative one, but nonetheless the best one to make the conclusions I do and to get the deep understanding of the Potsdamer Platz to investigate the three themes I chose for this bachelor’s thesis. It would not have been possible to get the same depth and understanding of the Potsdamer Platz with a quantitative approach, say with statistical methods. The structure and the nature of these methods and the results they would give would not provide me with the deep understanding of the Potsdamer Platz, which I need for my research. With the help statistics one could analyse statistical correlations and so on, which is not interesting for my bachelor thesis, with the themes I chose above. To investigate and analyse the three themes I chose for my thesis one need to have a very deep understanding of the things that have been happening at the Potsdamer Platz and the ongoing human activities there.

That is why the chosen approach is most suitable to get the information, which is needed to answer the research questions and to investigate the themes above. It is probably not possible to do the same research I did again, because one could get different answers from people at the street and could observe different things at the Potsdamer Platz. But since I also use an interview with the responsible planner and the plans of the Potsdamer Platz and of course the literature it still is a very reliable research. Despite that are the observation I made at the Potsdamer Platz very clear and easy to replicate, due to one can easily understand my observation, if one will go to the Potsdamer Platz and do it on there own. So even though my research is not be replicate completely is still is reliable.

1.4 Structure of this bachelor thesis

This bachelor thesis starts with chapters, which give an introduction to the theme and subject of this thesis and describe the aim of the thesis. After that comes a chapter with delimitations and one chapter where I discuss the methods I used to collect the empirical data and the methods I use for the analysis of the three themes, which I described in the chapter about the aim of this thesis. Apart from this I talk about the material I use in this thesis. This part of the thesis ends with the disposition of the essay. Starting point for the thesis is the Potsdamer Platz in Berlin. I give a quick description of the history of the Potsdamer Platz and will than go into the analysis part of this bachelor thesis. In this part I start with the first theme from above and give a review of the common literature and theory of that theme, when it comes to the Potsdamer Platz in Berlin. Than I analyse the points made in the theory and literature with my empirical material collected during my stay in Berlin. I do the same procedure with the other two themes. In the chapter called Conclusions I sum up the analysis I done in the previous chapters and I bring the different analysis together and make my own conclusions out of that. In the end of this bachelor thesis I have a summery of the whole thesis and the research I did for this project about the Potsdamer Platz.

2 Background

2.1 History of the Potsdamer Platz

In this chapter I give a brief historical background to the Potsdamer Platz and the development happening at this place in Berlin.

The Potsdamer Platz has a long history of consumption, big city life and entertainment, especially during the 1920s. But the history of the Potsdamer Platz is older than that. In the beginning of the 18th century there was basically nothing at the location where we today find the Potsdamer Platz. There were some tracks across the fields, which surrounded the place. These tracks were leading into different part of the city of Berlin. The Leipziger Platz, a part of the Potsdamer Platz, was build in the baroque stile during the 18th century and more roads were build to connect the place with the rest of Berlin. The development went on and already in the middle of the 18th century there were cafés at the Potsdamer Platz. Since Berlin was the capital city of Prussia the economic growth became stronger and stronger ( 2006-11-30).

The first train station in Berlin was build between 1835 and 1838 at the Potsdamer Platz and the traffic history began. Later on there were busses passing by the Potsdamer Platz and more and more rich business people and aristocrats were building business houses and villas. The Potsdamer Platz became also more popular to visit during that period. The development didn’t stop and during the next decades the Potsdamer Platz became progressively important for the city of Berlin. By now the Potsdamer Platz was one of the most central places in European cities. The infrastructure was extended and the traffic at the Potsdamer Platz increased. In 1890 the government was moving into to the new government building (Reichtagsgebäude) near the Potsdamer Platz and that increased the train traffic and the passengers leaving and arriving at the train station at the Potsdamer Platz enormously, so that the Potsdamer Train Station (Potsdamer Bahnhof) became the largest one in Berlin. By the end of the century even street traffic increased. More horse drawn trams were passing by the Potsdamer Platz and in 1902 the first subway was going from the Stralauer Tor to the Potsdamer Platz ( 2006-11-30).

The population around the Potsdamer Platz was growing, and so was the tourism in the city of Berlin and at the Potsdamer Platz. By the turn of the century there were 92 restaurants, 36 bars and 13 Vienna cafés. For many Berliner and tourist the Potsdamer Platz seduced to take a walk or visit enjoying the big city life. The popularity of the Potsdamer Platz grew and more people from the elite of Berlin moved to Potsdamer Platz. That made the Potsdamer Platz to the city centre of West Berlin and to the economic centre of the German Kaiserreich (empire). This development let even to the establishment of first class hotels and restaurants and to a better infrastructure, for example electric trams and a better subway system ( 2006-11-30).

After the First World War the Potsdamer Platz developed to the place with most traffic in Europe. During the 1920s this development was going on and the Potsdamer Platz became a place from entertainment and fun for Berliners as well as for tourists, who wanted to see the big city of Berlin and experience the big city life. At that time there were about 20 000 vehicles passing the Potsdamer Platz every day and that led to the installation of the first traffic light in Europe. During that period the Potsdamer Platz became the most visited place in Berlin, because of all the restaurants, bars and entertainment centres like the first cinema (Lichtspielhaus), which was showing silent films. The whole Potsdamer Platz was a place for consumption and entertainment for everybody. ( 2006-12-01, Heineberg 2001: 245, Neill 2004: 26-27).

After World War Two the Potsdamer Platz was almost completely destroyed. People tried to go on with their lives in Berlin and the Potsdamer Platz was a place of demonstration. As the opinions between the west and the east went in different directions, Berlin was divided in two peaces, West Berlin and East Berlin. The cold war started. The Potsdamer Platz was in the middle of West and East Berlin and since the Berlin Wall was built (start 13th august 1963) the Potsdamer Platz became a symbol of the division between East and West Berlin and the whole Germany. On the east side of the wall was the so called Todesstreifen, which means that nobody except the border police was allowed to came as close to the wall. Because of the wall the West Berlin city government didn’t had interests in developing the Potsdamer Platz, so the Potsdamer Platz was dead land until the reunification of Germany and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. After the Berlin Wall came down the development of the Potsdamer Platz began. There was now this 51-hectare peace of land in the middle of the newly reunified Berlin with basically nothing there. This led to the development of the Potsdamer Platz as it is now, with Daimler Chrysler, Sony and the city government of Berlin as the main developers of the Potsdamer Platz. During this development the Potsdamer Platz was the largest construction site in Europe (interview with Mr. Stanierowski Senatsverwaltung für Stadtentwicklung Berlin 2006-11-08, documentary about the Potsdamer Platz at the German television channel Phönix 2006-10-03, Heineberg 2001: 245, Neill 2004: 26-27).

Today the Potsdamer Platz is completely developed and almost every building was built during the 1990s and the beginning of the 21-century. The architecture is variable but, as a whole, the Potsdamer Platz appears very modern. The most eye caching buildings are the SonyCentre and the Daimler Chrysler complex with the shopping centre Arkaden, but the Potsdamer Platz has far more buildings than that. It is no surprise that Sony and Daimler Chrysler have the most stunning buildings at the Potsdamer Platz, because they own most of the land and had therefore of course very much influence on the building process at the Potsdamer Platz. Other important buildings are for example the five star plus Hotel Ritz or the buildings at the Lenné-Dreieck. For a very detailed overview of the architecture at the Potsdamer Platz and for the whole city centre in Berlin see Stimmann Vom Plan zum Bauwerk – Bauten in der Berliner Innenstadt nach 2000.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 1: Picture from the Potsdamer Platz; Stresemannstraße (upper picture), picture of the Potsdamer Platz; subway station, behind that the Sony Centre and the Ritz Hotel

2.2 Short facts about the Potsdamer Platz today

There are some important facts about the Potsdamer Platz today, which are needed to do a proper investigation and analysis of the Potsdamer Platz.

The planning office of the Senatsverwaltung in Berlin, who made the plans of the Potsdamer Platz, decided that they want living place. This means that at least 1/5 of every building at the Potsdamer Platz must be contain places for living, like apartments or flats. The decision of how the buildings and the apartments within the buildings should look like or in which design it should be was up to the companies and landowners who wanted to build at the Potsdamer Platz. The apartments are therefore very different but most of them are very expensive and built for a rich group of people. Further the Potsdamer Platz is a place with a very high density of the buildings. At the Potsdamer Platz are about 25,000 workplaces and everyday round about 70,000 people are visiting the Potsdamer Platz. When Germany became reunified in 1990 and the planning of the Potsdamer Platz began there was almost no physical environment left. Most of the buildings were so destroyed, that they had to be demolished. That explains why there were hardly any people living at the Potsdamer Platz, except some students, who got new student flats by the Studentenwerk Berlin (an organisation who helps students), and some persons who rented some apartments at in one house at the Potsdamer Platz. They were offered money (1000 DM/m²) and an equal apartment in a different place. Daimler Chrysler paid the money (interview with Mr. Stanierowski Senatsverwaltung für Stadtentwicklung Berlin 2006-11-08, Heineberg 2001: 245).

3 The theory behind the global city

In this chapter I will describe the theory and meaning of the term global city, which is very important to know, if one will analyse the first theme of this bachelor thesis.

To understand the expression global city and to investigate, if the planning of the Potsdamer Platz is a contribution to Berlin in order become a global city, one has to go to the bottom to the expression global city. As Stefan Krätke says, “a global city is not only a very large urban agglomeration and a location of high-ranking political institutions, but also a metropolis with a high degree of internationalisation of its economy and society” (Krätke 2001: 1778). The term global city was coined by Saskia Sassen in her book The global city – New York, London, Tokyo, which came out in 1991 and which she updated and rewrote in 2001. She described the ongoing development in today’s cities and pointed out the characteristics of the large metropolis of the world. This analysis was mainly concerned with the economic development and the social consequences of this development. (see Sassen 2001 and especially page four and five). Sassen continued to do research on the global cities and made even more contributes to the term and the research that has be done now, for example in the book Global Cities rd. Krause and Petro, where Sassen contributed with one chapter (Krause and Petro 2003). There are different characteristics for a global city, which Heineberg, based on Sassen’s work defined as:

- Many inhabitants (often more than a million)
- Location of important national and international institutions
- International financial centre
- Location of the headquarters of large international companies
- A centre for publishing, communication and culture (national and international)
- Very good traffic location, with a large part of the national traffic and important international traffic (often through large ports or airports)

(Heineberg 2001: 25-26)


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Berlin's Potsdamer Platz - Planning in a local, national and global context
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BSocSc Till Koglin (Author), 2007, Berlin's Potsdamer Platz - Planning in a local, national and global context, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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