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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Memory and spectacle at Potsdamer Platz : an architectural geography of Berlin's new centre Magruder, William Howard

Abstract

This thesis looks at the landscape of Potsdamer Platz, a hub of commercial and leisure activity in contemporary Berlin, Germany. Once the thriving center of the city, this site was largely destroyed during World War II and, in 1961, enclosed between the two parts of the Berlin Wall. Potsdamer Platz remained a "no man's land" until the fall of the Wall in 1989, when it once again became a desirable site for development. The following years saw this area become Europe's largest construction site as a new city centre was created. Today's Potsdamer Platz consists of flashy corporate architecture and privatized "public" space, emphasizing the importance of capital and consumption, while signs of a distinctly German identity are muted in an attempt to break with the city's troubled past. This is consistent with attempts to increase Berlin's prominence as a major city in Europe and an urban area of global importance. Potsdamer Platz represents a vision of the city's future and thus illuminates debates about the representation of the past. Further consideration of the site's reception indicates that this past is understood in different and interesting ways and is constantly being negotiated as Berlin continues to change.

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