Berlin 2021

Germany has a couple of weirdly interesting Burger King restaurant locations.  One, in Nuremburg, is housed in a former Nazi bunker building. The repurposing of Nazi architecture is still a controversial subject in Germany today.  Reconciling slinging burgers in a building still full of the echoes of a very dark past is tricky.  In this case, perhaps the Burger King advertising slogan ‘taste is King’ might not be the best fit. 

Berlin has got an interesting Burger King too – though less controversial.  

On the western fringe of Berlin’s famous central Tiergarten Park is a Burger King franchise in an unassuming, even strange looking glass building from 1957, called the Berlin Pavillon.  

The pavilion belongs to the 1950s, a huge and important redevelopment period in west Berlin after the city-wide destruction of WWII.  It was one of 36 buildings, a new residential district symbolising the new post war future of the western world, and is one of the most significant architectural complexes of the Cold War. The project was called the Hansa Quarter.

Our Burger King pavilion was the exhibition venue housing the architectural models of this vision.

Designed and planned from 1953, the Hansa Quarter is much more than just a housing project.  In the 1950s ruined Berlin had become the front line in a new conflict between freedom and democracy and communism, each system represented in the 2 halves of this one city. 

‘Building’ a new post war future in Berlin for the success of these political projects that divided a planet meant literally just that.  The buildings themselves became the faces and expressions of a choice of new tomorrows in Berlin and then the world.

When the Hansa Quarter opened in the late 1950’s (visitors could view it from a mini cable car) the new apartment blocks, to west Berliners, after years eking out an existence in the rubble, must have seemed to belong to a futuristic world – a concrete and glass episode of ‘Star-Trek’.

This is precisely the effect desired. Shocked into action in the early 1950s by the swift strides made to rebuild communist east Berlin with the construction of the showcase street ‘Stalin Allee’ , the Hansa Quarter was west Berlin’s answer, its showcase site.  

East Berlin chose a neo-classical style, full of reminders of the past.  The west wanted something radically different. Modern architects from all over the world either came out of forced retirement (there had not been much call for the modern style during the Nazi period, in fact it had been partially banned) or returned from exile to create the ‘city of tomorrow’ in the west.   

Berlin had experienced some modern architecture before WWII during the Bauhaus movement in the 1920s, perhaps the best surviving the AEG Turbine Hall by Peter Behrens.

But the Hansa Quarter was a residential complex, not a factory.  This is significant. This was about people.  It was a political and ideological symbol of the ‘progressive West with its superior quality of life’.

As a world changing architectural ensemble…..it’s a whopper.