Alexa: A new 54 000 square meter shopping mall by Alexanderplatz, Berlin. A few months ago, this gigantic new shopping mall opened in the centre of Berlin. It is located right next to the Alexanderplatz although it turns its back to the over-sized square with it’s famous TV-tower.
The mall itself can be described as huge, pink, and vaguely resembling a monstrous pastry (marshmallow man out of Ghost busters type of thing). According to the architects, it’s an Art Deco development, designed to remind of the roaring twenties. A very clumsy attempt to recreate a more acceptable past yet again perhaps. Or is it just an excuse to get a project through planning that wouldn’t have passed without years of debate had it been in a less populist style.
The Municipality and government originally intended for the land around Alexanderplatz to be developed in smaller plots, containing government buildings and embassies and other official buildings. These instead ended up around Pariser Platz, Potsdamer Platz and Tiergarten. The sites around Alexanderplatz were left without any purpose. The site of Alexa was also a rather difficult one, a block off Alexanderplatz, next to the S-bahn tracks and in the middle of several traffic interchanges. Sometimes I feel that this city is so desperate to become whole again, it sells itself short. Potsdamer Platz is not my favorite development, yet it’s from a different division in architectural quality compared to Alexa. This desperation to have a fully operational world class city a.s.a.p. is not really helping achieving any long term goal for Berlin. From a strictly architectural viewpoint, Berlin would do well to slow down rather than fill in the gaps as fast as possible. These are however desperate times, and have been so ever since the recession set in, but it must be possible to do better than this.
You’ll find no argument from me that Alexanderplatz needs a makeover and needs cheering up. I would however argue that the main problem of Alexanderplatz is a problem with scale rather than lack of tacky arcthitecture in funny colours. In a time when even Dubai and Las Vegas are employing international architects to improve their tacky reputation, Berlin goes in the other direction.
Alexa appears to be the physical manifestation of the shock therapy in capitalism, imposed by the IMF on Russia after the communist system collapsed. One could however question its legitimacy 20 years later. An embassy of vulgar capitalism in the heart of former GDR. One can’t help to appreciate the irony.