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In-Visible Palimpsest

Memory, Space and Modernity in Berlin and Shanghai


Lu Pan

In the early 1990s, Berlin and Shanghai witnessed the dramatic social changes in both national and global contexts. While in 1991 Berlin became the new capital of the reunified Germany, from 1992 Shanghai began to once again play its role as the most powerful engine of economic development in the post-1989 China. This critical moment of history has fundamentally transformed the later development of both cities, above all in terms of urban spatial order. The construction mania in Shanghai and Berlin shares the
similar aspiration of «re-modernizing» themselves. In this sense, the current experience of Shanghai and Berlin informs many of the features of urban modernity in the post-Cold-War era. The book unfolds the complexity of the urban space per se as highly revealing cultural texts. Also this project doesn’t examine the spatial changes in chronological terms, but rather takes the present moment as the temporal standing point of this research. By comparing the memory discourse related to these spatial changes, the book poses the question of how modernity is understood in the matrix of local, national and global power struggles.
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Chapter Five: The Disappearing Berlin: Can the Wrongs be Undone?


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Chapter Five

The Disappearing Berlin: Can the Wrongs be Undone?

I.  Forgetting the East Berlin Architecture in Reunified Berlin

In Part II, we see how one of the mainstream approaches to redefining architecture in New Berlin, the so-called “critical reconstruction”, has been reshaping Berlin’s urban space. This approach aims to rebuild a “European city” with its own urban architectural traditions. For Hans Stimmann and his advocates, Berlin should be reconstructed in a clearly defined concept of its urbanity that is characterized by “clearly defined streets, squares, and private buildings” (Binder 2007, 185) and a specific delineation of density, size, and diversity to achieve the effect of “functional and social mixture.”1 “Critical reconstruction” is practiced in today’s Berlin largely as a means to retrieve the “loss” (Stimmann, 26–27) and repair and undo the damaged urban texture that was caused by political abnormalities, including the Second World War and the GDR regime. Architectural legacies in the former East Berlin are usually seen as embodiments of the GDR ideologies that served as political propaganda and are therefore monotonous, nontraditional, and backward. One of the strongest disdains against the GDR crimes done to the Berlin cityscape is the demolition of the Berlin City Palace (Berliner Stadtschloss) under the order of the General Sectary of SED2 in East Germany Walter Ulbricht in 1950. The demolition destroyed the visuality of Berlin as an unacceptable symbol of Prussian militarism and capitalist power. On the same...

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