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Urban Conditions

Jesko Fezer, Axel John Wieder

Fifteen years after the fall of the Wall, Berlin seems to have been integrated into the general development of cities within the neo-liberal spatial system. Berlin’s attempt to catch up on development has, however, been significantly more forced, faster, harder and more compromised, and precisely for those reasons its development has been more manifest and contested than the more continuous and longer-term changes of other metropolises.

This process of "normalization" was negotiated in dramatic discussions, often covered in the media, of keywords such as architecture, the function of a capital and quality of location. It is clear in hindsight that these accompanying negotiations were of an essential character, and that they took on the important function of finding potentials for development. They may be analyzed as part of a post-Fordist discourse that took a space marked by the welfare state and state socialism and restructured it according to principles of liberalization and privatization. In contrast to earlier models of city planning, the Berlin debates after 1989 seem to designate developmental trends primarily as potentialities. Spaces, ideas and plans are turned into offers that permit one to test whether ideas for reorganizing space have the potential to gain acceptance. In this way, Berlin’s culture of speculative planning may be understood as a negotiating technique that is flexible enough to balance developments in accordance with the new types of control associated with deregulation.