Many days, Potsdamer Platz is the exact opposite of the city in which it is located. It starts with the externals. Things are relatively clean here in Berlin – neither pedestrians on sidewalks stumble over thrown mattresses, nor the fear of throwing themselves into the trash of a dog with their feet. Day after day, sterile conditions prevail here, as is usually the case elsewhere in the city: in the intensive care unit of Charity Berlin. But anyone who thinks Berliners like the uniqueness of the place thinks badly.
No one in the capital would think of going out with someone, walking around the square or organizing the Sunday coffee party here. When stores close after work, the cemetery rest returns. Potsdamer Platz is visited by people who need to be there – or who do not know better. 100,000 people attend the square every day, most of them work here or are in the city as a tourist.
Designed for consumption
Every inch of this 68,000 square foot site is designed for consumption, designed to allow people to spend their money here – or win. It is therefore not surprising that Potsdamer Platz is going through a difficult period in Berlin, a city where criticism of capitalism has been an integral part of all party discussions for many years. And if recent rumors that a closure of the Cinestar cinema at Sony Center would be proven, it certainly would not help to make the place more popular. With the Lichtspielhaus, one of the few cultural sites in the region where Berliners enjoy themselves would be a marvel.
"In reality, Potsdamer Platz is just a gigantic shopping center with a few connected offices," says architect Steffen de Rudder, professor of urban design at Bauhaus University in Weimar. His expert judgment is harsh: "From the point of view of urban planning, Potsdamer Platz is a disaster," he said.
In doing so, he can also benefit from the place. "High-level architects participated in the planning," he says. "Take the terracotta facades of Renzo Piano: they are inspired by Berlin's construction traditions based on the works of Karl Friedrich Schinkel", congratulates the professor. "It was very well done and you can say that the architects were very specific about the place."
But the quality of the architecture disappears behind the fundamental problem of the system, says Rudder. "Take a look at the other lively places in the city: around the Chamissoplatz in Kreuzberg or the Kollwitzplatz in Prenzlauer Berg, 80% of the space is devoted to life and 20% to the area. industry, "he explains. "At Potsdamer Platz, the relationship is exactly the opposite."
He sees the culprit of planning disaster in the city center, especially in politics. "The post-history of the place began with a scandal," remembers Rudder until 1990. "A symbolically very busy and world-famous place was sold by the municipal government to Daimler. square meter. "In fact, the car manufacturer had to pay two years later the equivalent of 33.8 million euros, because the initial purchase price was considered illegal competition.
Platz suffered from the departure of Daimler
Daimler has long cleaned the area. In 2007, the car company sold the property downtown – with lush markup. 1.5 billion collected Stuttgart for the Berlin region from Swedish bank SEB. But even with the change of ownership, things have not improved. On the contrary, in the following years, fewer and fewer people were lost on Potsdamer Platz. The shopping center, the heart of the region, has lost momentum. First the Saturn Electrician, then the chain of Hugendubel books: many anchor tenants of the Potsdamer Platz Arkaden have left the mall in the coming years.
"When Daimler left in 2008, the neighborhood suffered a lot," recalls Sebastian Beck, Berlin regional manager of shopping center developer ECE. "The SEB has been very passive and invested very little.The space dates back to 1998 and was designed on a very large scale, tailored to Daimler's needs, but not at the request of smaller offices on the market. market. "
In 2016, Canadian real estate investor Brookfield took over the region and dissolved the backlog. Obviously successful: In the fall of 2018, the company announced that it reached a rental level above 90% during the quarter.
The shopping center is waiting for modernization
However, the mall is still waiting for its restart. Its implementation has already begun: "We are in full revival," said Beck, director of ECE. "We are crazy about renting and, of course, about renting." The arcades of Potsdamer Platz have to be considerably modernized by 2021. Finally, the new competition at the Leipziger Platz, the Mall of Berlin, has made complete renewal necessary after only 20 years of operation.
Beck is optimistic that the area will support two shopping centers: "The Berlin shopping center is a classic shopping center," he said. "Everything that has a name and a rank in the world of retailers is represented there." In arcades, however, people rely on a different concept. "We want to connect the world of work to the interests of tourists," said Beck, because it was the customer profiles that dominated Potsdamer Platz.
"In the cellar, we want to supply the neighborhood, the grocery store, the pharmacy and the locksmith shop, and on the ground floor we focus on tourists, with strong international brands that will be represented by flagship stores. "Beck can not name yet:" We are currently doing a pre-selection. "The renovation plans for the center will be successful. Beck has no doubt about this: "We are making very good progress in marketing, as the quarter is growing very well, the office market in Berlin is recovering strongly and we are also benefiting here in Potsdamer Platz. . "
The trade believes in the location
There is evidence that Beck does not say this simply because he has to say it in the face of the millionaire investment of his company in the site. For example, the commercial assistant Thao at the kiosk of the Stresemannstrasse: "The Potsdamer Platz is a good place for our store," says the young woman. His parents opened the shop ten years ago. "At that time, there was nothing in the area," says Thao. This has changed in recent years. "More and more customers are coming." Leon, an employee, adds, "We even considered extending our opening hours in the evening."
Even the latest rumors about the possible closure of the Cinestar cinema in the Sony Center do not result in any savings. According to Nils Busch-Petersen, managing director of the trade association Berlin-Brandenburg, things are changing in the city. "If a big cinema does not work as expected, the investor must simply change course," he said. "In the retail business, we are used to having to adapt and change the concepts of action, sometimes it's just necessary for survival and nothing scares us." Potsdamer Platz is now an important trading venue "There is a good chance that good development will continue."
The closure of the cinema may not threaten the economic future of the central square. Culturally, however, the omission of the Lichtspielhaus would wreak havoc. Potsdamer Platz is also a decisive factor for the Berlinale. After the disappearance of the Kudamm cinemas, all the musical, multiplexed and Filmhaus theaters with Arsenal offer the largest density of screens in the city to absorb the annual flow of more than 480000 visitors.
For a public festival like the Berlinale, a central location is also an important factor of identity: moviegoers from around the world will gather on Potsdamer Platz for two weeks in February to celebrate the cinema. A dismemberment of the city's cinemas would be detrimental to the typical "Berlinale feeling".
The problem of the first festival is that, unlike the Cannes and Venice competitions with their official festival palaces, the one in Berlin depends on several private cinema operators. Thus, the future of the Berlinale is in the hands of economically calculating companies that pay no attention to two weeks of film festivals a year. As a result, the line reacts nervously to the new possible closure of Cinestar at the Sony Center. Mariette Rissenbeek, who will lead the festival with Carlo Chatrian for the first time in 2020, does not want to comment on the subject for the moment. Uncertainty is still great: the contract with the operators of the Musical Theater, the first cinema of the competition, expires in 2022. And the appointment of short duration at the end of February had already blurred the planning of the Exhibition at Gropius-Bau, where the European Film Market is held every year parallel to the Berlinale.
Is the demolition ball coming?
But even if the cinema were to remain, one wonders if Berlin's Potsdamer Platz will grow to heart. "Of course, economically, the place is a complete success," says town planner Steffen de Rudder. But otherwise, it's hard for people to like it: "The premise of the European city is that the city center is filled with shops, cafes, restaurants and offices," he says. "On Potsdamer Platz, however, everything goes in camera." Solutions to consider? He does not have it. "I do not know how to do that, you can not just change places like a sock." To eliminate the urban errors of the past, something must be changed about the structural structure. In other words, on the way to the hearts of the capital, the destruction ball is waiting.