No. 311 . 08 November 2006 
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Berlin Central Station

by Jo Baker

The new Berlin Hauptbahnhof designed by von Gerkan, Marg and Partners (gmp) is Europe's largest and newest train station — a large "cathedral" of glass and steel. Linking major lines from all directions, the Berlin Central Station has been on the boards for 11 years, but with typical German efficiency, was completed within two weeks of the 2006 World Cup games. Yet one could say that the station had been in the planning stages for nearly a century.

The notion of a unified transportation hub for Berlin had first been considered in 1910. At that point, passengers traveling the length or width of the country would arrive at one of six terminal stations in the city and often need to transfer to another to continue their journey.

An early-20th century competition to redesign Greater Berlin included plans for a rail link that would serve a pair of central stations at either end of the city, reducing the role of the others. But two world wars and the Cold War intervened, and those plans were all but abandoned. When Germany was divided after WWII, Berlin too was portioned up like a pie.

Then in 1995, six years after the Berlin Wall fell, the concept was revived. Another competition selected gmp whose winning design was grand, modern, and ultimately very functional. This was meant to be a "super-station": intersecting all major north-south and east-west rail routes in the region, facilitating train arrivals and departures every 90 seconds, and, of course, doubling as a hip new retail and hospitality hub.   >>>

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