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  • Writer's pictureMatti Geyer

Reconstructing the Past: 10 Iconic Structures of Berlin & Potsdam that should be rebuilt

Updated: 2 days ago

Berlin and Potsdam, two cities deeply intertwined with history and culture, bear witness to a rich architectural heritage. However, the ravages of time, war, and urban development have led to the disappearance of several iconic buildings that once graced their skylines. Cities like Dresden and lately Potsdam have undertaken extensive reconstruction efforts following World War II and the Fall of the Berlin Wall, restoring many historical buildings and landmarks. In contrast, Berlin has faced significant challenges in rebuilding due to its size and complexity. However, there are ongoing discussions and initiatives to revitalize certain parts of Berlin, particularly in the historic city center, although progress has been slower compared to other cities in Germany. In this blog post, I'll take a journey through history and explore 10 magnificent structures that deserve to be reconstructed and admired once again.


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Schinkel's Bauakademie

Karl Friedrich Schinkel's Bauakademie stands as a testament to neoclassical brilliance. Ravaged by the tumult of World War II and razed in the 1960s, its absence leaves a void in Berlin's architectural narrative. There are existing plans for reconstructions, although there is ongoing debate regarding the extent to which the original facade will be rebuilt.



Bundesarchiv, Bild 170-160 / Max Baur / CC-BY-SA 3.0

City Canal in Potsdam

The Stadtkanal in Potsdam, a historic waterway dating back to 1673, was once a picturesque feature of the city's landscape. Despite its closure in the 1960s, restoration efforts have been underway since 1999, with sections along Yorckstraße and the Kellertor Bridge being revitalized (albeit still without water). Plans for further restoration, supported by community engagement and philanthropic efforts, aim to reconnect the canal with the Havel River, preserving Potsdam's cultural heritage for future generations.



Circus Busch

Circus Busch, with its majestic dome, was once a vibrant hub of entertainment, resonating with the laughter and applause of Berliners. Sadly, it became a casualty of wartime bombings, leaving a void in Berlin's cultural fabric. The likelihood of reconstruction is low, especially considering its transformation into a popular park area today.



The New Synagogue

The New Synagogue, a symbol of Jewish heritage and resilience, was a striking blend of Moorish and Byzantine architecture. Despite surviving Kristallnacht, it was severely damaged during World War II and left in ruins. While its exterior has been restored, the reconstruction of the lost interior would not only be a poignant reminder of the city's multicultural history but also hold significant symbolic meaning for Germany's Jewish culture today, emphasizing the enduring importance of preserving and honoring Jewish heritage in contemporary Germany.



Karstadt Hermannplatz

Built between 1927 and 1929, Karstadt at Hermannplatz stood as the largest department store of the Weimar Republic. Designed by architect Philipp Schaefer, the six-story building boasted a unique blend of Neo-Gothic, Expressionist, and Art Deco styles. Equipped with modern features like 21 escalators and 20 elevators, it even had a direct underground connection to the Hermannplatz subway station. Despite its grandeur, the building suffered extensive damage during World War II and underwent several renovations over the years. Plans for its reconstruction are under way, with the city of Berliln in favour and the local district against.



Molkenmarkt

The Molkenmarkt, formerly known as the Alter Markt or Olde Markt, stands as Berlin's oldest square, located in the Mitte district east of the Nikolaiviertel near the Spree. Despite its historical significance, it transformed into a bustling traffic junction and parking lot since the 1960s, devoid of its original urban character due to wartime destruction and subsequent urban planning. Plans for its revival have emerged, with some proposals aiming to recreate its historical layout and architectural style, symbolizing a return to Berlin's oldest quarter.



Bundesarchiv, B 145 Bild-P063067 / CC-BY-SA 3.0

Großer Jüdenhof

The Great Jüdenhof in Old Berlin was a medieval residential complex consisting of several loosely clustered half-timbered buildings. Constructed in the 13th century by Jewish families residing near the Molkenmarkt, it underwent transformations over the centuries, transitioning from a Jewish settlement to a courtyard housing artisans after the expulsion of Jews in the 16th century. The original structures did not survive the ravages of World War II and the DDR era, but could be reconstructed as part of the Molkenmarkt revival.



Anhalter Bahnhof

Berlin Anhalter Bahnhof was one of the most important long-distance train stations in Berlin until the mid-20th century. Before World War II, the station served as the main hub for connections to central and southern Germany, Austria, and Italy. Although the imposing station building was heavily damaged during Allied air raids, the station continued to operate until 1952 and was eventually demolished between 1959 and 1961 amid significant public protests. Today, only fragments of the portico and the underground S-Bahn station remain as reminders of the once-famous long-distance train station. A modern museum building will be built beside them.



Schloss Monbijou

The Monbijou Palace was a Hohenzollern palace built in the late Baroque style by Eosander von Göthe in 1703 as a pleasure palace. Expanded in 1740 by Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff and in 1789 by Georg Christian Unger, it hosted the premiere of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Faust in 1820. Damaged during World War II, it was demolished in 1959, replaced by the Monbijou Park. Currently, a citizens' initiative advocates for the reconstruction of the palace's gatehouse.



Spittelmarkt

The area around Spittelmarkt transformed into a bustling marketplace in the 18th century following the demolition of the fortress walls. However, rapid street expansion in Berlin's Gründerzeit led to the relocation of the Gertrauden Hospital in 1872, and the Spittelkirche was demolished in 1881. The area was heavily damaged during World War II, leading to total replanning in the 1960s to 1970s. Streets originally terminating at the square lost their function, and new buildings emerged, including a 20-story administrative high-rise after German reunification. Redevelopment plans aim to restore the historic spatial structure, including widening the old Gertraudenbrücke and reducing street width to reestablish Spittelmarkt as a town square.

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