Berlin Urban Form and Politcal Ideology

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GEOG3003: Discuss the relationship between political ideologies and urban form in 20th century Berlin Berlin has developed over 800 years and has undergone major changes. It is the place where German unification, after 40 years of separation, becomes apparent and this provides us with an excellent location for studying urban processes. The twentieth century saw different political ideologies impose themselves onto the city and I will use certain political ideologies and explain the impact they had on urban form. I will use these examples to show a relationship between political ideologies and urban form and the implications of this. Firstly, the key terms must be defined. When referring to urban form, I use the basic definition by Anderson et al (1996), who define it as the ‘spatial configuration of fixed elements within a metropolitan region.’ They go on further to state that it includes the spatial pattern of land uses and their densities as well as the spatial design of transport and communication infrastructure. More importantly from a political perspective, a change in urban form requires a change in people’s lifestyles and this may not be possible unless there is a shift in attitude from the public (Kuhn, 1992). This is something to bear in mind when looking at 20th century Berlin. Political ideology can be loosely defined as a set of beliefs about the proper order of society and how it can be achieved (Denzau and North, 1994). They further go on to say ideologies are shared models that groups possess and that these models provide an interpretation of the environment and how it should be structured. I am now going to discuss the relationship between political ideologies and urban form in the 20th century Berlin. The relationship can be approached by looking at Berlin at different stages throughout the 20th century. I will look at urban form before the Second World War, during the period where Berlin was divided and finally after unification. At each stage, a certain political ideology had influence on urban form. It is important to note that when the allied forces took control of Berlin, the city had undergone amalgamation on a gargantuan scale. In 1920, 59 villages and 27 estates were joined to form a city of 3.9 million citizens, making it the third largest city in the world after London and New York (Elger, 1992). This is important because the city would have had less time to develop its urban form to the same stage as London and New York, which developed over many years. Their urban form reflected that of the concentric zone model. The Nazi regime tried to impose their nationalist ideology onto the urban form of Berlin. They built the Ministry of the Air Force, which eventually became the Treuhand holding company, who restructured the former GDR industries after reunification (Blockmans, 2003). In 1942, Albert Speer designed plans for the Nazi regime which intended on creating a new urban centre. Tempelhof airport was designed as a result. There were also railway stations planned for north and south Berlin as was Siegesallee, or the Lane of Victory. Adolf Hitler, leader of the Nazi party, had an obsession with building big monuments and when queried as to why he always wanted to build the biggest, he would say that it was to restore self-respect to each individual German (Hall, 1996). A north-south avenue was planned and this was designed to show the political, military and economic power of Germany. Plans were made to build seventeen highways and big towns to the north and the south and these towns would do away with the Nazi favouritism towards single family homes and a shift towards closed apartment blocks that surrounded big yards (Larsson, 1978). In terms of the basic principles, Hall says that Speer’s plan showed that incompatible land uses were segregated, through traffic was excluded from residential areas, light and air and space was in abundance. It is important to state that much of this vision was...
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