Pariser Platz Berlin Germany an historic square revived 1992 to the present

After the reunification of Berlin in 1989, and the dismantling of the wall that ran through it dividing East and West Berlin, Pariser Platz became available for reconstruction. It had been lying empty since being destroyed in World War II. During this period it lay in the East Berlin, or Russian sector, of the city that served as the capital of the Deutsche Demokratische Republik (GDR). The square is bounded on one side by the Brandenberg Gate which terminates the vista down Unten den Linden the ceremonial axis of Berlin. Before World War II the then great powers of the world, the United States, Great Britain, France and Austria had established their embassies on the square or in its vicinity. In addition, the Adlon Hotel and several prestigious apartment and commercial buildings enclosed it (see Figure 8.40).

The Square had originally been constructed in 1734 to the plans of the chief royal architect, Philip Gerlach. The construction of the present Brandenburg Gate (1789, designed by Carl Gotthard Langhans and inspired by the Propyl^a in Athens) established the importance of Pariser Platz. The gate lies on the western side of the square and was part of the customs wall that surrounded the city in the eighteenth century. In 1880 Herman Mächtig, the city garden director added two ornamental parterres with fountains dividing the square into symmetrical halves. After the reunification of Berlin there was a universal desire to re-establish the importance of the square to that of its glory days of the period between 1871 and 1933. The question was, 'How?' There was no consensus.

Planning responsibilities for the site were divided. The [Berlin] Senate Department of Urban Development is responsible for overall urban design, zoning controls and landscape design concerns in Berlin but the individual city districts are responsible for local zoning, local development and landscape plans. The latter controls the development and building application process. The form that the restoration of Pariser Platz should take was very much a subject of debate amongst politicians, design professionals and the general public. Some people wanted the square resurrected as it once was; others wanted a laissez-faire collage of 'up-to-date' buildings. In addition, the site consists of 11 parcels of land and thus 11 individual owners whose possession dated to the time before the GDR had expropriated the land (see Figure 8.41). They had to be placated.

The outline of the square had been totally obliterated during the war. Archaeological research undertaken in 1992 revealed the square's outline and the locations of the fountains. The open area of the plaza was restored later in the same year. The redesigned plaza thus retains the square's historical outline and includes the foundations of the old water basins and remnants of the fountains. Hans Stimmann who believed that the buildings facing the square should 'combine conservative and modern elements' established the design goal.

A number of regulations and controls guarded the design of the buildings enclosing the square. One of the regulations of the Berlin Municipal Government is that

Pariser Platz Stimmann
Figure 8.40 Pariser Platz as it appeared before World War II.
Pariser Platz Stimmann
Figure 8.41 The Pariser Platz development sites.

20% of any new development in the city must be devoted to housing. The purpose is to have some life in every precinct all day and to have streets and open spaces under natural surveillance (i.e. to 'have eyes on the street'). The aesthetic goal for Pariser Platz was to have buildings that were architecturally of Berlin. The design guidelines (of the 1999

Development Plan I-200) specified that buildings were to be no more than 22 metres in height, sandstone range in colour corresponding to the Brandenberg Gate, and with no more than 50% glazed area on the façade, all in keeping with Berlin traditions. They also had to be built to the property line with no setbacks and have their lower façades

Paternoster Square Analys

(4-6 metres from the ground) visually differentiated from the floors above. The goal was to prevent the square becoming a 'playground' for a set of haphazard architectural ideas. Most of the buildings have complied with the regulations in a direct manner.

Starting in the north western corner, the square is enclosed by Haus Libermann (1996-8), Palais am Pariser Platz, the Eugen-Gutmann-Haus der Dresdner Bank (1996-7), the French Embassy (two-storey in appearance but of more floors in reality) designed by the Christian de Portzamparc Atelier, a residential-cum-commercial building, the Hotel Adlon (the hotel of the past on a new site, designed by Patzcheke, Klotz and Partners), the Akademie der Künst of the Senate of Berlin (2002, designed by

Günter Behnish that leads through to Behren Strasse to the south) and the Deutsche Genossenschaftbank (DG Bank) (a pale sandstone building designed by Frank Gehry and completed in 2000). Adjacent to it is the site for the United States Embassy. Haus Sommer and Haus Libermann, both designed by Josef Paul Kleihues have identical façades and with the Brandenberg Gate enclose the western end of the square. Figure 8.42 shows the plaza as reconstructed. The gate remains the centerpiece of the composition.

Gehry negotiated a 10% increase in the allowable area of glass on the façade of the DG Bank Building (see Figure 8.43b). His success shows both the political power that major architects can have and their desire


Figure 8.43 Two views of Pariser Platz in 2002. (a) Pariser Platz under (re)construction and (b) the DG Bank Building with the United States embassy site beyond.

Figure 8.43 Two views of Pariser Platz in 2002. (a) Pariser Platz under (re)construction and (b) the DG Bank Building with the United States embassy site beyond.

to do things differently. His building is still sedate on the façade with greater exuberance in the internal court and on the rear of the building. The apartments are relegated to the rear so that the objective of having eyes on the square in non-business hours is not met, although there are always many tourists in the area to add some life to

Figure 8.44 Federation Square, Melbourne. (a) The plan and (b) a general view.

Figure 8.44 Federation Square, Melbourne. (a) The plan and (b) a general view.

the open space. This neglect of the intentions of a design directive shows that unless they are highly specific they can be easily avoided.

At the time of this study (2004) the last remaining open site on the Platz is that occupied by the United States Embassy before World War II. A design for the site (by Moore Ruble Yudell of Santa Monica and Gruen Associates of Los Angeles) was proposed but for security reasons, after the 1998 bombing of the United Sates Embassy in Nairobi, the United States Government does not wish to meet the requirement of building to the property line - a requirement put in place to make the square an enclosed space. It wanted a 100-foot setback. Negotiations have taken place between embassy officials and the Berlin administration to resolve the impasse. Both groups wish to have the embassy in its traditional location to add prestige to the Platz and vice versa. Given this situation the Embassy has had the upper hand in the negotiations. A settlement has been reached whereby the setback will be considerably smaller than the United States government wanted and it will pay for the consequent design and construction changes required in the surroundings.

The reactions to the square are mixed. Many architects (and the lay-public, I suspect) would have preferred to have had the modern glazed global glitziness ofPotsdamer Platz. Perhaps the image sought by these critics was more like that of the Federation Square (completed in 2002; see Figure 8.44) in Melbourne (Dovey, 2004). That square is a total urban design in which formal and technonic inventions reign supreme within an anti-classical composition. Frank Gehry has found the Pariser Platz to be a little bit like a stage set' (Gehry, 2001). Daniel Libeskind was more scathing. He considers the guidelines to be 'anti-democratic' and 'authoritarian' and the results 'banal'. He does not seem to have commented on the square as an urban place or node. What the design does do is put the Brandenberg Gate on centre stage and makes the other buildings background. Few architects want to be painters of the background. The clash of values represents the conflict between private desires to be self-expressive and public interests in all urban design work.

Major references

Gehry, Frank O. (2002). Building at the Pariser Platz -remarks on the new Berlin. Casabella 66 (704): 4-11, 100-2.

James-Chakraborty, Kathleen (2000). German Architecture for a Mass Audience. London: Routledge.

Scheer, Thorsten, JosefPaul Kleihues, Paul Kahlfeldt and Andrea Bärnreuther, eds. (2000). City of Architecture of the City: Berlin 1900-2000. Berlin: Nicolai. Schneider, Bernhard (1998). Invented history: Pariser Platz and the Brandenberg Gate. AA Files (Autumn): 12-16.

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