'Alex' to Berliners, a cattle market in the Middle Ages, a military parade square and an exercise ground for nearby barracks until the mid-19th century - Alexanderplatz is the square named to honour Alexander I, Tsar of Russia, on his visit to Berlin in 1805.
It was here that Alfred Döblin took the pulse of the cosmopolitan metropolis portrayed in his 1929 novel 'Berlin Alexanderplatz', filmed by Rainer Fassbinder for a TV series as a portrait of the bustling city in the 1920s before the imminent Nazi takeover. Fast forward to more recent times, and one million people congregated here on November 4th 1989 to demonstrate against the GDR regime shortly before the fall of the Berlin Wall. This was the largest anti-government demonstration in GDR history.
Layer upon layer of Berlin’s urban history is located in Alexanderplatz, interweaving centuries of social, political, and architectural history, and the square is repeatedly the subject of public debate and urban design competitions.
The transformation of Alexanderplatz into a modern transit junction and shopping area came about during the second half of the 19th century with developments such as the construction of the S-Bahn, Berlin’s surface rail network, in 1882 and the underground railway from 1913. Devastated during the war, the square gradually developed into the pedestrian zone during the 1960s, becoming a popular if rather amorphous urban area.
Many of the well-known buildings, examples of East Berlin’s attempt to compete with the Western side’s own in-your-face high-rises, were erected during this time. These include the Hotel Stadt Berlin – a 123m high hotel; the Haus des Lehrers (Teachers’ House), a venue for pedagogues which remained more of a representative façade than a real educational forum; The House of Travel with a slightly amusing ring to it given the notorious travel restrictions during the GDR, and the publishing house building - today’s Berliner Verlag – which served as the offices of the Berlin daily, Berliner Zeitung.
©visitberlin - Scholvien