Monday, December 16, 2013

Berliner Fernsehturm / Berlin's TV Tower

When Walter Ulbricht's DDR needed to build a new TV aerial for East Berlin in the late 1960s, it was decided to build it as a monstrous ego-statement about the progress of communism. They built one of the highest buildings in Europe and allegedly modelled the top of it on the look of the Soviet Sputnik spacecraft, which vied with the USA for supremacy far above the tower, in space. The Fernsehturm is still in use for TV broadcasts, and as a tourist attraction, with its revolving viewing gallery and restaurant decks still in operation; offering paying customers unparallelled views out over this great city.

Even on the foggy day when we visited, when the top of the tower disappeared up into the cloud; all the city's great landmarks were visible from the viewing gallery. It also revealed how much of the city is now a building site; with cranes and pipes in all directions. In total and ironic contrast to the message the planners of the TV tower had anticipated however, these building boom does not signal the triumph of the planned socialist economy but of Germany being the core of Europe's free-market capitalist economy; primed with available real-estate courtesy of the collapse of communism and the freeing of available land it had once used for walls, fences, barbed wire, gun-turrets, trip-wires, guard-dogs and all the other paraphernalia of repression.

"Back in the DDR?" Pointing the camera out across East Berlin reveals that despite the changes, the imprint of communist planning is still an essential part of the new Berlin.

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