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The Appeal of the Berlin Metropolis (July 6, 2006)

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“The growth markets are the creative sphere, tourism – and the field of medicine. I know something about that; I own a group of hospitals in Bavaria. Right now I’m in the process of planning a clinic in Berlin.”

Something big, of course. In addition, he’s rebuilding his Spreebogen area, the hotel, the restaurant, a doctors’ center. Together, that creates between 500 and 600 jobs. On top of this comes his new large-scale project: the former Main Telegraph Office on Museum Island. “I’ve asked Helmut Jahn to take over the planning.” The well-known architect from Chicago. “I wouldn’t be doing things like this if I didn’t believe in Berlin.”

The Berlin that’s beginning to take shape is one that comes after industry and after subsidies. And after the illusions of the nineties. It will be a city that will have nothing to do with the postwar German ideal of similar living standards everywhere, indeed, with equality. One part Bangkok. One part Las Vegas. One part Tempelhof. One part Berlin, D.C. And if things go well, one part high tech on top of it. With people like Professor Bernd Michel. With heart centers and other highly specialized clinics that attract rich patients from around the world. With festivals, operas, and luxury hotels for the evenings and the nights. And with tattooed lads from the suburbs who wander by the terrace of the Adlon Hotel and stare at the guests and make obscene comments. Yes, that, too. That already exists.

Enduring the contradictions between poor and super rich, allotment garden [Schrebergarten] and place-to-be, absolute world and absolute province, new Russians and old Zehlendorfers, Anatolians and members of the Philharmonic is something the city has been practicing for sixteen years. It is really good at training. It has newly trained itself to have a good dose of straight-forwardness and equanimity, old Berlin virtues.

[ . . . ]

Things don’t have to resemble a funfair, as they did during the days of World Cup, things can also be solidly middle class. Isn’t the Philharmonic playing tonight at the Waldbühne? The Berliners love these annual summer concerts in their own way. They reach into their picnic baskets and take out pieces of fried chicken, red wine, and good cheer when the sun sets and the blue of the sky grows darker, and then, at the very end, the orchestra plays “Berliner Luft” and everyone whistles the snappy chorus. Berlin is blissful, then, at peace with itself; then it is Avustribüne and Sportpalast waltz and Herbert von Karajan, all at the same time. Viva Las Vegas!

Source: Wolfgang Büscher, “Stadt der Spieler” [“City of Gamblers”], Die Zeit, July 6, 2006.

Translation: Thomas Dunlap

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