Berlin NEW 720x180

Pictures left to right: Building cranes at Potsdamer Platz (photo by Ute Lehrer) “Monument for the Murdered Jews of Europe” by Eisenmann and socialist housing from the 1980s (photo by Roger Keil) The Spree river between railway station and parliament buildings (photo by Roger Keil).

As researchers around the world are getting ready to share their insights, theories and empirical studies at the upcoming RC21 Conference in Berlin under the theme of Resourceful Cities, IJURR is making available a selection of articles that have been published on Berlin over the past three decades. We hope that this open access virtual issue will allow researchers to engage more deeply with the place and the specific debates that have found their way into IJURR. Berlin is rich with contradictory realities, which ought to stimulate the mind of any interdisciplinary student of urban and regional issues. This selection of articles aims to do exactly that.

With the fall of the Wall in 1989, Berlin received heightened attention from international publics, while internal debates on the future of the city reached an all time high. Some argue that everything in Berlin is particular, shaped by its specific historical role during the twentieth century from the city of Dada and the Roaring Twenties to the Nazi period, from the partitioned city with a wall cutting through not just physical space but social networks to the post-1989 capital city of Germany. Others, while acknowledging Berlin’s specificities, link the city to globally scaled urban processes. Berlin’s unique status after the second world war changed during the 1990s, which was also the period when the peculiarities of planning processes were complemented with practices that are based on consumption, public-private-partnership and an international interest in real estate speculation. In the 1990s Berlin became a playground of international capital investment and urban design competitions (Lehrer, 2002; 2006).

The socio-political and economic fabric of Berlin led to specific practical and intellectual debates in social movements, alternative and dominant planning models as well as star architecture alongside the quotidian reality of people. The built environment played a central role in the contest for preeminence between two rival systems and led to distinct planning schemes on both sides of the wall: in the West the state experimented with international planning exhibitions while in the East the capital was turned into a showcase of the state through the construction of major public works and infrastructures as well as extensive housing programs constructed as prefabricated units, many of which were built in the periphery. The fall of the Wall was followed by what is referred to by some as German reunification (Häußermann, 1999) and by others as the annexation of the East by the West (Holm and Kuhn, 2011). This latter distinction turned out to be significant as can be seen in some of the contributions to this virtual issue: it shapes the interpretation of policies, practices and politics in a post-Wall Berlin. While the articles published in IJURR on Berlin represent both sides of the debate, in the early 1990s, the discourse was mainly shaped by the Western perspective, even though some of the authors were aware of their own positionality. In an early attempt to reflect on urban development in the new Berlin, Fritz Schmoll (1990: 676) pointed to these limitations:

Having observed and taken an active part in the politics of planning and housing in West Berlin I am familiar with the structures, problems and trends of social and spatial development in the walled city, but I have to admit that my knowledge of the eastern part of the city and its hinterland is much less profound. The GDR has always been a black box, surrounded by a lot of propaganda and rhetoric for and against the socialistic model, but with little reliable information available.

Peter Marcuse expressed concerns in 1998 about the city’s new direction. Admitting that his perspective was somewhat personal (‘my family emigrated when I was four as Hitler came to power, and certainly my reactions need to be read in the light of my own background’: p. 331), Marcuse bemoaned that the discussion on the future of Berlin mainly centered on the aesthetics of architecture, instead of the function of new forms of investment into the built environment. He points to the selectiveness of spatial and planning strategies and to the relative dismissal and eclipse of developments in the city’s East. Disagreeing with this last point, Häußermann (1999: 183) responded strongly:

Extreme changes are seen where the Communist Party once ruled exclusively. Capitalism has moved into those areas, bringing with it parliamentary democracy. Thus the power structure in those areas has changed fundamentally, and it is my impression that therein lies the reason for Marcuse’s critical assessment of the new German republic and its representation in the new capital. My impression stems from Marcuse’s argumentative use of the architecture of the Palace of the Republic.

Marcuse’s plea to deal with history more carefully is also reflected in the way he presents the controversy around the competition for the Holocaust memorial. Persuaded by an entry by Scala architects Jörg Esefeld and colleagues in the design competition for the site, whose proposal represented the site as barren, Marcuse suggests erecting a sign that reads: ‘This is the location at which a monument to the murdered Jews of Europe was to have been erected. Because an understanding of what led those who murdered them to act as they did has not yet been achieved, the site remains barren’ (1998: 336). This suggestion is picked up by Campbell’s reply (1999: 175) as an idea that is ‘both insightful and revealing’ because a ‘definitive … government-sanctioned’ monument resulting from a political intervention after the first architectural competition would be likely to conceal more than it discloses.

Neil Brenner entered the discussion with a critical review essay on two related books (Häußermann and Kapphan, 2000; Krätke and Borst, 2000) and opened a debate that until then was pretty much internal and restricted to a German audience. He noted at the time that the book by Häußermann and Kapphan displayed a tendency towards prioritizing ‘the immediate political and ideological agendas of the current local administration over the goal of providing a genuinely critical analysis of ongoing sociospatial transformations’ (Brenner, 2002: 638). Karin Lenhart, based on her own work on real estate and planning policies in post-Wall Berlin (Lenhart, 2001), came to similar conclusions in the selection reproduced below but found great merit in the book by Krätke and Borst, which, according to both Brenner and Lenhart, makes a significant contribution in its critique of the local state and shows how Berlin is shifting to an increasingly neoliberal approach to urban development in a context where already ‘[p]rofound divisions between East and West persist’ (Brenner, 2002: 641).

Some of the articles in this virtual issue of IJURR take a theoretical approach centered mainly on debates on neoliberalism. Most of the articles are rich in data, examples and stories and all of them contribute to a better understanding of a city that is crammed with contradictory and multilayered interpretations of meaning. The selected full length articles can be grouped into five sections:

1 Discourse on the city
In a full length research article on the national debate about the capital city, Hartmut Häußermann and Elizabeth Strom (1994) address economic and spatial consequences of the decision to move the government to Berlin. The concept of the European City, which also played a significant role in those debates that Marcuse was objecting to (see above), is illuminated in Virag Molnar’s (2010) article.

2 The role of creative industries in the New Berlin
Culture has been a core element in Berlin’s identity construction over the past few years and therefore it is no surprise that this section enjoys the highest number of publications in IJURR. Stefan Krätke (2004) applies a regional political approach to study Berlin’s economy, socio-spatial fabric and governance structure. He focuses on four points — restructuring processes with particular attention on creative talent, socio-spatial polarization, the real estate boom and the city’s financial crisis — and ends by pointing out the contradictions of policies, regulations and practices that led to a situation in which Berlin is actively undermining its own capacity to expand on its healthy sectors, such as the media sector. His article also problematizes the subsidies that went into the city for expanding its service sector in order to become a ‘Service Metropolis’ (Häußermann, 1997). In a similar manner, Bader and Scharenberg (2010) start with the presumption of Berlin as a ‘world media city’ and argue that it is precisely the flexible integration of subcultural music production into the music industry that allows the creative milieus of the city to rise. Their contribution makes the link between deindustrialization and creativity. The role of culture is also at the center of Stephan Lanz’s (2013) application of Foucault’s concept of governmentality to Berlin’s urban space production where he states that empowerment and cooperation have now become part of the disciplinary technologies of governance. Johannes Novy and Claire Colomb (2013) analyse new coalitions for urban change in Berlin and Hamburg under the framework of Harvey’s discussion of the right to the city.

3 The squatter movement and gentrification
Andrej Holm and Armin Kuhn (2011) published a much needed piece on housing where they situate the squatter movement in Berlin in a wider geographical and political context and make connections to other social movements. Their fascinating article makes a strong connection between urban regimes in crisis and the squatter movement. The early years of the squatter experience in Berlin are portrayed in the article by Steven Katz and Margit Mayer (1985) on self-help activism in New York and in Berlin from the late 1970s to the mid-1980s.

4 Immigrant experiences
Entrepreneurship from an immigrant and a female immigrant perspective are the context for the articles by Antoine Pécaud (2002) and Felicitas Hillmann (1999), respectively; both authors look at the role of Berlin’s Turkish population.

5 Urban political ecology
While specific to Berlin, but with a wide-ranging importance, Jochen Monstadt’s (2007) article links urban governance to energy systems. The shifting role of governance is also a central point of inquiry in Marit Rosol’s discussion of community gardens in Berlin, where she demonstrates how self-initiatives are part of neoliberal urbanism.

While IJURR made extra efforts to present the debates in and on Berlin as much as possible, a good number of authors never made it into IJURR, among them Simone Hain or Wolfgang Kil, though a new book, presenting some work originally written in German in accessible English translation, is trying to address this problem (Bernt, Grell and Holm, 2013).

Ute Lehrer
IJURR Editorial Board
August 2013


Bader, I. and A. Scharenberg (2010) The Sound of Berlin: subculture and the global music industry. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 34.1, 76–91.
Bernt, M., B. Grell and A. Holm, (2013) The Berlin reader: a companion on urban change and activism. Transcript – Verlag für Kommunikation, Kultur und soziale Praxis, Berlin.
Brenner, N. (2002) Berlin’s transformations: postmodern, postfordist … or neoliberal? International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 26.3, 635–42.
Campbell, S. (1999) Capital reconstruction and capital accumulation in Berlin: a reply to Peter Marcuse. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 23.1, 173–79.
Häußermann H. and E. Strom (1994) Berlin: the once and future capital.International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 18.2, 335–46.
Häußermann, H. (1997) Berlin — Lasten der Vergangenheit and Hoffnungen der Zukunft. Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte 17, 10–19.
Häußermann, H. (1999) Economic and political power in the new Berlin: a response to Peter Marcuse. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 23.1, 180–84.
Häußermann, H. and A. Kapphan (2000) Berlin: von der geteilten zur gespaltenen Stadt? Sozialräumlicher Wandel seit 1990. Leske + Budrich, Opladen.
Hillmann, F. (1999) A look at the ‘hidden side’: Turkish women in Berlin’s ethnic labour market. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 23.2, 267–32.
Holm A. and A. Kuhn (2011) Squatting and urban renewal: the interaction of squatter movements and strategies of urban restructuring in Berlin.International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 23.2, 267–82.
Katz, S. and M. Mayer (1985) Gimme shelter: self-help housing struggles within and against the state in New York City and West Berlin. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 9.1, 15–46.
Krätke, S. (2004) City of talents? Berlin’s regional economy, socio-spatial fabric and ‘worst practice’ urban governance. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 28.3, 511–29.
Krätke, S. and R. Borst (2000) Berlin: Metropole zwischen Boom and Krise. Leske + Budrich, Opladen.
Lanz, S. (2013) Be Berlin! governing the city through freedom. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 37.4, 1305–24.
Lehrer, U. (2002) Image production and globalization: city-building processes at Potsdamer Platz. PhD dissertation, Department of Urban Planning, School of Public Policy and Social Research, University of California, Los Angeles.
Lehrer, U. (2006) Willing the global city: Berlin’s cultural strategies of interurban competition after 1989. In N. Brenner and R. Keil (eds.), The global cities reader, Routledge, London and New York.
Lenhart, K. (2001) Berliner Metropoly: Stadtentwicklungspolitik im Berliner Bezirk Mitten ach der Wende. Leske + Budrich, Opladen.
Lenhart, K. (2002) Berlin transformations: another view. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 26.4, 855–59.
Marcuse, P. (1998) Reflections on Berlin: the meaning of construction and the construction of meaning. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 22.2, 331–38.
Molnar, V. (2010) The cultural production of locality: reclaiming the ‘European City’ in post-wall Berlin.International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 34.2, 281–309.
Monstadt, J. (2007) Urban governance and the transition of energy systems: institutional change and shifting energy and climate policies in Berlin. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 31.2, 326–43.
Novy, J. and C. Colomb (2013) Struggling for the right to the (creative) city in Berlin and Hamburg: new urban social movements, new ‘spaces of hope’? International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 37.5, 1816–38.
Pécaud A. (2002) ‘Weltoffenheit schafft Jobs’: Turkish entrepeurship and multiculturalism in Berlin. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 26.3, 494–507.
Rosol, M. (2010) Public participation in post-fordist urban green space governance: the case of community gardens in Berlin. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 34.3, 548–63.
Schmoll, F. (1990) Metropolis Berlin? Prospects and problems of post-November 1989 urban developments. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 14.4, 676–86.


Gimme Shelter: Self-help Housing Struggles Within and Against the State in New York City and West Berlin
Steven Katz and Margit Mayer (1985)

Metropolis Berlin? Prospects and Problems of Post-November 1989 Urban Developments
Fritz Schmoll (1990)

Berlin: The Once and Future Capital
Hartmut Häußermann and Elizabeth Strom (1994)

Reflections on Berlin: The Meaning of Construction and the Construction of Meaning
Peter Marcuse (1998)

Capital Reconstruction and Capital Accumulation in Berlin: A Reply to Peter Marcuse
Scott Campbell (1999)

Economic and Political Power in the New Berlin: A Response to Peter Marcuse

Hartmut Häußermann (1999)

A Look at the ‘Hidden Side’: Turkish Women in Berlin’s Ethnic Labour Market

Felicitas Hillmann (1999)

Weltoffenheit schafft Jobs’: Turkish Entrepeurship and Multiculturalism in Berlin
Antoine Pécaud (2002)

Berlin’s Transformations: Postmodern, Postfordist … or Neoliberal?
Neil Brenner (2002)

Berlin Transformations: Another View

Karin Lenhart (2002)

City of Talents? Berlin’s Regional Economy, Socio-Spatial Fabric and ‘Worst Practice’ Urban Governance

Stefan Krätke (2004)

Urban Governance and the Transition of Energy Systems: Institutional Change and Shifting Energy and Climate Policies in Berlin

Jochen Monstadt (2007)

The Sound of Berlin: Subculture and the Global Music Industry
Ingo Bader and Albert Scharenberg (2010)

The Cultural Production of Locality: Reclaiming the ‘European City’ in Post-Wall Berlin
Virag Molnar (2010)

Public Participation in Post-Fordist Urban Green Space Governance: The Case of Community Gardens in Berlin

Marit Rosol (2010)

Squatting and Urban Renewal: The Interaction of Squatter Movements and Strategies of Urban Restructuring in Berlin

Andrej Holm and Armin Kuhn (2011)

Be Berlin! Governing the City through Freedom
Stephan Lanz (2013)

Struggling for the Right to the (Creative) City in Berlin and Hamburg: New Urban Social Movements, New ‘Spaces of Hope’?
Johannes Novy and Claire Colomb (2013)