Project Spreeinsel 

Cornell University, Ithaca, USA

Olga Bakic 

The competition for Spreeinsel in Berlin has been one in a series of attempts to re-establish the forgotten center of former undivided Berlin. Architects have been awarded the honor to create a new vision for a new center of power of the reunited German nation. The program has been undefined and ambiguous in the sense of necessities, functions, and contents, but on the other hand, it has been very precise in the request for competitors to use historical maps of old Berlin which have "to wipe out the painful history of the city after the World War II denoted by the notorious regime. The Competition Jury suggestion to entirely demolish existing buildings - symbols of the previous regime, has been justified by their multiple inappropriateness, such as "unhealthy asbestos materials which were used for constructing". The jury has appealed for reconstruction of the city milieu to become "an attractive place for living and working to assure positive progress and a bright future". From an architectural point of view, all conditions to produce attractive drawings and models have been provided. However, it should be questioned if architects and politicians are powerful enough today to recreate the identity of a city which is to become the pride of the nation.

It has been overlooked that architects and politicians have not contributed to the fall of the Berlin Wall, together with the whole system of division of the world. Unstable reality has shown that all has happened over night, without revolution and heroism, without victory and defeat. The fall has been economic in its nature. The world has come to a new stadium of capitalism - late capitalism (Frederic Jameson) - marked by international corporations which have dislocated economic interest out of political and national boundaries.

National entities have been jeopardized by a global economic strategy. New nationalism that has arisen all over the world should not be considered as a continuation of old nationalism, but as an awkward answer to a transformed economic system.

In a situation where the old "well-known" system has not worked any longer, and the new seems to be undefined, it should be asked whether political institutions (parties and states) are still capable of surviving and governing in the sense of previous ideologies.

"Spectacularization" of a city has turned Berlin, once a dark city with a strong alternative, underground movement and other dangers of a great divided city, into an overnight charming Disneyland. It would have been better if Berlin had been left untouched, with the character of a museum of the Cold War. This character was probably one of the only remaining public interests which had meaning for everyone: for the inhabitants, for faceless capitalists, for tourists and nationalists.

Architecture has been a successful instrument of celebrating a powerful throne. Belief in an architectural solution to transcending state ideology has been shown to be naive and overwhelmed in this case, because it has been related to an undefined program, with the ideology of a loser, on no-man's land (the state is just an apparent owner) for a fake developer. How to act as an architect when the real power has been disguised and is thus unpredictable?

This "architectural solution" has offered a synopsis to keep all existing "notorious buildings" the way they are, as tourist attractions, with the possibility of easy removal if they obstruct constructing buildings that are more profitable. Existing buildings have to become powerless "ghosts" with a certain political charm. Any new activity (function or attraction) with or without ideology, temporary or everlasting, could be easily settled in or out in a space in-between.