UCL Urban Laboratory


Entrepreneurial heritage-making in post-Wall Berlin: The case of New Potsdamer Platz

27 February 2019, 1:00 pm–2:30 pm

Skyscapers at Potsdamer Platz, Berlin at the end of the blue hour. Buildings and their architects from left to right: Atrium-Tower (Renzo Piano), Kollhoff-Tower (Hans Kollhoff), BahnTower (Helmut Jahn). Credit: Ansgar Koreng on Wikimedia Commons

Event Information

Open to



Room 5.04, The Bartlett, 22 Gordon Street, London WC1H 0QB

New Potsdamer Platz has been the flagship urban development project of post-Wall Berlin. Throughout the 1990s, Potsdamer Platz evolved from an abandoned no-man's-land, delineated by the Berlin Wall, into Europe's largest construction site and, finally, into the much-vaunted new centre of the once and future capital of reunified Germany. While the piecewise sale of Potsdamer Platz to international enterprises such as DaimlerChrysler and the Sony Corporation provoked controversial discussions in the early 1990s, the fact that several monuments and other relics from the conflictual history of Potsdamer Platz were part of the sales has hardly caught attention. 

This talk will investigate the diverging interests of the public and private players involved in the politics of heritage-making and urban development at Potsdamer Platz since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. It will trace how discourses and material symbols were combined to support the transformation of selected aspects of the urban square's past into heritage while obliterating other remnants. An imaginary walk through today's Potsdamer Platz will serve to underpin my argument that the complex heritage landscape of the place was redeveloped into a landscape of corporate power that indeed commemorates the present. This was achieved through the partial destruction of protected monuments, the integration of new historicizing symbols in the urban space and the highly selective heritage interpretation that was first resisted but later sustained by the municipal government.

Organised by the UCL Centre for Critical Heritage Studies. The seminar is open to all, no booking required. Refreshments will be served.

About the speaker:

Sybille Frank is Professor for Urban Sociology and Sociology of Space at the Technical University Darmstadt. She holds a PhD in sociology from the same university. Sybille taught sociology and urban planning at Technische Universität Berlin and Goethe University Frankfurt. She was a Visiting Scholar at the Priority Research Area 'Critical Heritage Studies' at Göteborgs Universitet, the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation at Deakin University (Melbourne), and the Centre for African Studies at the University of Cape Town. In 2016, Sybille was La Sapienza Visiting Professor for Research Activities at Università di Roma La Sapienza and City of Vienna Visiting Professor for Urban Culture and Public Space at Technical University Vienna. Her work focuses on urban sociology, on the sociology of space and place, and on tourism and heritage studies. Recent publications include 'Dwelling in Mobile Times. Places, practices and contestations' (Routledge 2018, ed. with Lars Meier); 'Wall Memorials and Heritage' (Routledge 2016); 'Heritage-outside-in', special issue of International Journal of Heritage Studies (2016, ed. with Susan Ashley).

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Image: Skyscapers at Potsdamer Platz, Berlin. Credit: Ansgar Koreng, licensed under CC-BY-2.5 from Wikimedia Commons.