A struggle is under way for the soul of Berlin.
This past summer, a gallery around the corner from my office in Berlin held an exhibition organized on an unusual theme: how to shrink the city to match the size of its diminished population. One scheme proposed the demolition of all the interior buildings in Berlin’s unique wafflelike city blocks, composed of buildings and inter-communicating courtyards, or Höfe. Each block would literally be hollowed out, the interior planted with huge gardens. Tongue-in-cheek though it was, the exhibition marked the first time I’d seen a response from Berliners to a question that almost every visitor to the city sooner or later asks: “Where are the people?”
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John Hooper is the Berlin bureau chief of Britain’s Guardian and Observer newspapers.more from this author >>