Berlin mitte and the anxious disavowal of Beijing modernism: Architectural polemics within globalization

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Abstract

Berlin and Beijing, at first glance you could joke that they both have walls in common, each their own historic defensive barrier that ultimately failed to stop the invasion from abroad, but what really has united them is that over the past 20 years both have undergone radical transformations brought on by the end of communism. The two cities can be compared as having two distinct architectural responses to the new urban spaces created by this nonviolent transformation. Ackbar Abbas hints at the spatial possibilities in both cities when he compares the disorientation created by the Chinese building boom with Gilles Deleuze’s description of the flat, bombed out spaces of postwar Europe.1 The broad empty lots that dotted German, French, Dutch, and Italian cities have also appeared in China, though there the open expanses were created without war. If we look at images of Chinese cities under construction, the similarities with Berlin Mitte after the Wall become quite striking. Sze tsung Leong’s recent photographs of Shanghai reveal the emptiness akin to Potsdamer Platz before reconstruction.2 We could readily argue that post-Wall Berlin’s empty spaces, the unbuilt zone of the Todesstreifen, also presented city dwellers with a dizzying array of possibilities, wide-open voids that quickly elicited a multitude of architectural recommendations on how to fill in the emptiness.3.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAfter the Berlin Wall
Subtitle of host publicationGermany and Beyond
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Pages249-272
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9780230337756
ISBN (Print)9780230111929
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2011

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All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences(all)

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