Tuesday, December 28, 2004

On Berlin and Urban Planning

Reason's Dave Copeland decries the effects of too much government in the recent development of Berlin. As one who spent some time there in 2001, I can attest to the truth of his central thesis. At the time, there was nothing but cranes as far as the eye could see, and yet there was the sense that these were sterile buildings, being constructed at locations off the beaten track for no particular inhabitants.

Particularly resonant to me was this passage:

In Mitte, a district in the east that has been left relatively untouched, trendy restaurants jostle for space with student-dominated bars, while back streets offer small cafés and one-of-a-kind apartments. With five major thoroughfares crashing into each other at a central square, it is an urban planner’s nightmare—gritty, chaotic, and full of businesses ranging from coffee shops to Thai restaurants. The major difference between it and Potsdamer Platz: It’s crowded with a healthy mix of tourists and locals, as well as small, one-of-a-kind shops and restaurants.

Of course, I spent the great majority of my time here, in the "chaotic", "unplanned" central district of the former DDR. This was the Berlin that I found vibrant and exciting, the Berlin that I would like to revisit. Certainly not the sterile, unpoplated government creation that is Potsdamer Platz.

Oh, and on a completely unrelated note, I'm gonna use this post to let Outside the Beltway act as my tutor regarding "trackbacks". One day, I swear, I'm gonna be blog savvy...


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