Eastern architecture pt. 3: Fernsehturm Berlin

One of the more famous landmarks in East Berlin is the TV tower (or Fernsehturm Berlin), which was constructed by the GDR in the late ’60s as a way to showcase its technological superiority over the West.

My first impression as I exited Alexanderplatz metro station was that I was not moved either by its aesthetic design or by it as an engineering feat. I wondered why such a monstrosity might be worth preserving.

As the tallest structure in Berlin, however, the Fernsehturm can be seen from most every corner of the city. This air of ever-presentness started to wear me down like a catchy pop hook: I started thinking about it, and even looking for it from wherever I was in the city. In the end, I counted myself among its most fervent admirers.

It isn’t that it’s a romantic or especially pretty structure, but I started thinking about the group of people who still clock in at the base, ride the elevator all the way up, and don’t leave that bulb until eight or nine hours later. That idea seemed so dreadful to me that I had to acknowledge the tower as holding something more poetically banal than I had previously assumed. Does that make sense?

Also, as I noticed the tower peering over my shoulder so often, I started recognizing it as much more sinister than I had previously understood — I could certainly see the tower as a reminder to the people of the East that they are being watched.  Again, way more interesting than I initially gave it credit for.

6 responses to “Eastern architecture pt. 3: Fernsehturm Berlin”

  1. Dave says:

    Cool. I wonder if it would be disquieting if it were taken away because Berliners would feel the lack of this symbol of surveillance. “I used to feel so safe, so looked after, so watched over.” It was part of the nasty genius of Communist regimes to literally embody the repressive functions of the state. Having paramilitary NYPD units in subway stations, or FBI “national security letters” for warrantless searches, is just not as poetic.

  2. J-Man says:

    I love how the last photo looks like the needle is piercing the clouds and the light rays are pouring through. Very poetic Scotty.

  3. Oh, that’s a great image, J-Man.

  4. Stella says:

    I was just there yesterday…and the guidebook pointed out a feature that appears in your second image…you can see the sun reflecting off it in the shape of a cross, which apparently made the East Germans crazy. Also, there is now a starbucks at the bottom, reminding us that all socialist states devolve into franchises.

  5. ScottyGee says:

    5: The sunlight, cross image was called “the Pope’s revenge” by West Berliners.