Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin
It might not be attractive, it might not be elegant and it definitely ain´t pretty but here is to West Berlin´s most beloved – by some, if not by many – piece of post-WW2 architecture!
Europa-Center, one of the first true high-rise buildings in Berlin and the very first one combining shopping with office work and with very colourful nightlife (it is still open 24h a day!), has just turned 50 today.
The today listed building, or actually two as Europa-Center comprises an office building and a smaller shopping and entertainment centre, was constructed on the very same spot where the famous “Romanische Cafe” used to stand from 1916 until its demise in 1943. Its blueprint was the New York Rockerfeller Center.
Between 1965 and 1974 visiting the Center´s main foyer was a rather chilling experience: it used to be an ice-skating rink before. And where the large media shop, Saturn, sells smartphones and flat-screens today, West Berlin´s premiere cinema “Royal-Palast-Kino” used to offer its audience a unique experience of watching films of the biggest wide-scope screen (32m x 13m) in the world!
Although the re-unification of Berlin as well as the changing tastes in what is considered to be a trendy location led to its losing a bit of its old popularity and intense charm, it is still a fascinating place to visit: not the least because of the mysterious time-measuring device placed at the centre of the main foyer and known as “Die Uhr der fließende Zeit” (The Flowing Time Clock). Installed in 1982 by a French artist and clock-maker Bernard Gitton the 13-metre-high (or 3-storey) construction is made of 12 large glass spheres, 30 smaller ones, plenty of glass pipes and neon green liquid flowing inside them. The larger spheres mark the hours, while the smaller ones fill up every 2 minutes. It takes a bit of imagination and patience to get what time it actually shows but it is very much worth trying. You are bound to feel like Champollion when he finally read the Rosetta Stone.
Whether it´s the 3-tonne rotating Mercedes Star on its roof or “Die Stachelschweine”, the popular local cabaret and the Centre´s oldest tenant (they moved in only ten days after it opened) with its hilarious “Kabaret und Currywurst” late-night Saturday show or the thermal baths with a swimming pool on the roof of their car park, Europa Centre still has plenty to offer. After all, 40,000 visitors per day cannot be wrong.
Europa-Center is celebrating its 50th birthday today with a rich programme and a sentimental tear in its neon green glass eye.
Ice-skating rink at the Europa Center in the 1970s (image by Helmut Seger)