Part of one of the last stretches of the Berlin Wall is to make way for luxury apartments and a pedestrian bridge over the river.
The East Side Gallery, a few kilometres of colourful, cartoon-like murals, many celebrating the fall of the wall, protesting over a long gone Cold War, or making genial pleas for world peace, will soon be partially dismantled for the sake of comfort living and commerce.
Protests have been organised, petitions signed, and social networks have been complaining.
I have some questions:
- What should Berlin do with a huge wasteland in its centre?
- What does the East Side Gallery represent today?
- How do we chose what to conserve and what to renew?
- How ‘authentic’ is the East Side Gallery, and does it matter?
Points to consider may include:
- Berlin has a lot of space, but not so much in the centre
- the city’s changing quickly, and some elements of the past are more important than others as time goes by
- the wall is commemorated elsewhere in the city in some detail
- the murals were created after the wall had “fallen”, and are on the east side, which means that throughout the GDR that section was, in fact, painted plain white
I don’t have any definitive answers, but I’m not very convinced by vague arguments from resentment towards people who may be able to afford new apartments by the river, and if people want a voice in shaping the city, would it not be more productive to engage in the debate, rather than striking a reactionary, conservative and absolutist approach?
I hope development of this city is done with consideration towards its history, the character of its different areas, and the needs of its most vulnerable citizens, and any changes should be questioned, but I can’t support a blanket demand to keep things just as they are.