Messe Nord/ICC, Collage © Björn Paulissen


History between traffic-flows

by Aleksandra Potapczuk / translation by Max Bach

The escalators of the station Messe Nord/ICC carry the traveler onto a traffic-heavy bridge that straddles a deep ravine. Trains and cars rush by in this gorge, separating the idyllic residential area at Lietzensee built around 1900 from the grounds of the exhibition center, marked by the ICC and the Funkturm (radio tower). From the bridge you can look out over the snarl of traffic routes: significant arteries of the city intersect here. According to traffic reports, the Funkturm-Kurfürstendamm triangle and the Funkturm-Kaiserdamm triangle are the most heavily trafficked segments of highway in Germany. When you look closer, the spaces in between reveal garden plots that were laid out 100 years ago by the state railway only to be increasingly encroached upon by the transportation constructions. These colonies remain popular even to this day – there are even waiting lists and no spot of land stays unused.

Amidst the traffic flows, the International Congress Center hovers on columns. After 15 years of planning and four years of construction, the ICC opened in 1979 and still today counts as one of the biggest convention centers in the world. Its audacious design engineering, gigantic dimensions and futuristic formal vocabulary recall a spaceship more than an edifice. The convention center in the western part of the partitioned city was from the beginning not just a purely functional building. With its formal and functional modernity, it was meant to symbolize the economic strength of the western world and affirm Berlin's claim as a vital, international center of trade. As a product of this technology-minded time, it ignored the scale of the pedestrian: The complex could be reached solely from the highway via an eight-laned street or a new subway station built as an extension of the U1 subway. The connection was never completed however, but the subway facility still exists today as an oversized underpass occasionally animated by inline skaters playing hockey.

A bridge connects the ICC to Berlin's exhibition ground, which has been at the same location since 1924 and is today a protected landmark. In the same year the Funkturm was built. It is open daily for visitors with a viewing platform and a restaurant offering views over the grounds and far off parts of Berlin. High up above in this steel tower the last thing you'd expect is be dignified comfort with solid middle-class cuisine, but that is exactly what awaits: You can enjoy buffets with monthly rotating themes set to the sounds of Musak.

From the Funkturm one can also see Lietzensee with its art nouveau park, which loops around picturesquely on the other side of the ravine. The lake lies protected from city clamor under the new Kantstraße, which cuts it into two parts. Here, time seems to have stayed still for one hundred years, and yet still the lake doesn't come across as old-fashioned: In a well-tended bourgeois atmosphere people jog and promenade, there is a café with a terrace on the water and a recently-opened fitness area for the elderly. In the winter there is ice-skating, and the neighboring Hotel Seehof, built in the 1950s, and the café on the lake serve Glühwein (mulled wine). The lake, like the other Grünewald lakes, is part of a sluice from the ice ages, and was dredged and re-naturalized at the fin de siècle to increase the attractiveness of the planned residential area.

At the park there are many historically imporant buildings, such as the former state military court, where – during the NS-Regime – more than 1,400 death sentences (among other rulings) were pronounced due to treason, conscientious objection and spying. The court judged members of the military and civilians from Germany and the occupied territories – it was effective as an important instrument to assure power for the dictatorship. After the war, the building housed the superior court of justice of West Berlin before it – in accordance with landmark preservation regulations – was converted into a luxurious condominium block in 2006.


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