The buildings around Strausberger Platz in Berlin are an impressive example of 1950s East German architecture. The so-called “gingerbread style” is a lasting legacy of the past, viewed around the world as representative of socialist influenced architecture. The buildings around Strausberger Platz may be unique in their form and arrangement, but there are further architectural examples all over the world that bear testament to the fact that the spread of this characteristic architectural style, which is also known as Socialist Classicism or Stalinist architecture, was not constrained by national borders.
Alexanderplatz might be the strangest square in all of Europe. It’s world famous and a must-see for every visitor to Berlin. But why? It doesn’t have any character or appeal – it’s just a huge open space surrounded by not-so-great-looking buildings housing chain shops. Oh yes, and then there’s this huge concrete tower. Because of all this, it might also be one of the most disappointing squares in Europe. But in this Valentine’s week, let’s try to give our good old “Alex” a bit of Liebe and focus on some little-known facts about it.
Alexanderplatz today. Image courtesy of john_coffee/ photocase.de
Just imagine: a country without pizza. No margherita, no calzone, no quattro formaggi. As the first pizzerias were starting to make their appearance in West Germany, the East-German government couldn’t allow this Italian – and therefore non-socialist – delicacy. They put it on the blacklist, together with American snacks like hamburgers and hotdogs. You wanted fast food? There was currywurst. Little did the government know about the power of pizza – because it didn’t take too long before it found its way to the people.
West-Germany’s first pizzeria. Image courtesy of mainpost.de
Heike-Melba Fendel has recently published her love story Zehn Tage im Februar (Aufbau Verlag), large parts of which were written on and around Strausberger Platz.
Strausberger Platz at night.