Potsdamer Platz

Ach Berlin with its gentle tolerance of eccentricity, its occasional Schnauzer masking real warmth - eine Freundschaftspiele.

In Potsdamer Platz a harsh wind blows snow in from the north. The illuminated sign on the top of the Mercedes Benz tower revolves slowly.

It’s new to me this Potsdamer Platz. The first time I saw it, this place was grass and mud. Neimand’s land. Now, of course, that’s old news. Its blast proof international anonymity is established – a concrete part of the city’s geography, whether you like it or not.

If the streetscape of Potsdamer Platz is designed in some sub-Tokyo rhetoric of illuminated signs, then it serves only to emphasis the lack of street life; a deadzone populated with tourists, those who work for corporations, international commuters - at home here because here is nowhere. Here is Frankfurt am Spree, the set of Blade Runner rebuilt by Disney. It is also, perhaps not coincidentally, Cinema city.

Leaving the U-bahn at Potsdamer Platz at night and turning the corner into Potsdamer Str it is hard not to find yourself gawping at the slow pulse of lightning delivered by a huge illuminated sign. This strobe is for a moment synchronised with that of a bolt of lightning that is depicted on a nearby hording with some low-grade technical trickery. A huge mound of earth, a tomb, a barricade? Occupies the centre of the street.

This is self-consciously dramatic architecture, but its drama is the deracinated Noh drama of certainty and markets. This is commercial property. The set of a film I really don’t want to see.

The interior of the Sony Centre, however, contains a surprise. A huge circus tent extruded to a vertiginous point and twisted into a not so oblique nod to Foster’s Bundestag. Transparency here reduced to the cellophane wrapping of a sweet.

Glass lifts speed us between floors and beneath this vast crow’s nest we are transformed to mere vectors of Capital.

All of the hushed talk is of Politics, Finance.

more pictures at: http://picasaweb.google.com/david.e.selden/ArchitecturalTourism