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10 Things Not to Do in Berlin

by Ralph Martin

Go see the Berliner Dom

Opened in 1905, this neo-Renaissance monster is a squat tea kettle that fails to inspire on any level. Its architectural importance is negligible: The cathedral was already a nostalgia exercise when Kaiser Wilhelm II commissioned it. Inside, it lacks the aspirations of the cathedrals of Chartres or Reims, with their soaring ceilings and daring stained glass. Its companion piece of overblown imperial glory, Berlin's Hohenzollern Palace, was demolished in 1950; conservative politicians now want to reconstruct it and are raising hundreds of millions of euros towards that dubious goal. Few architects of any note have involved themselves: They know Berlin is all about modernism.

Marvel at the Modernist architecture

At the Kulturforum on Potsdamer Strasse, you'll find some of the 20th century's most daring public design: Hans Scharoun's golden-hued Philharmonic building looks from several vantage points like the prow of a ship, and the majestically calm interior of the State Library by Hans Scharoun and Edgar Wiesniewski , with its even distribution of natural light and unbroken open space, is a testament to the aspirations of postwar architecture. Mies van der Rohe's New National Gallery (pictured), across the street is stunning in its simplicity—a heavy black slab of steel set atop pillars that frame an airy museum walled entirely in glass. North of the Tiergarten is the Hansaviertel, where housing projects by high-caliber architects like Walter Gropius and Oscar Niemeyer fill the leafy streets that run through Berlin's central park—buildings that looked to the future when they were constructed 50 years ago, and still do.

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