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Leave Berlin for two weeks and, on your return, you’ll find yourself standing before a gap in your street, wondering what used to be there.
These days Unter den Linden is less a leafy boulevard than a vast building site with trees, where the state library construction site flows seamlessly into the building on the state opera, the shafts for a new underground line and the rebuilding work on the Prussian palace.
Building sites don’t disappear in Berlin, they move a few metres down the street and start over. If you want to get rich in Berlin, don’t get into property: get into scaffolding.
But as the building and rebuilding drags on, so, too, does the ideological warfare over how the new-old German capital should look.
One camp still insists that, after war and division, the best way to redevelop Berlin is to preserve the historical dimensions of its streets and squares, to reconstruct and rebuild with a respectful nod to the past. That was the philosophy of Hans Stimmann, the first post-unification German city planner. […]