Berlin has just said “yes” to Communist-era blocks and “no” to more new skyscrapers. On Monday, the city announced that it was listing some key Communist-era structures in Alexanderplatz, East Berlin’s central square, as historical monuments. It is an irremovable nail in the coffin of a 22-year-old plan to demolish the square and replace it with a “little Manhattan”—a set of 10 new 150-meter high towers. The decision is a contentious one: the new monuments just confirmed are in a late-1960s modernist style that many people still hate.
Alexanderplatz won’t stay entirely unchanged. Two new towers will still be built, one of them a twisting number from Frank Gehry. What is definitively over, however, is a master plan dating back to 1993 from architect Hans Kollhof that envisioned a forest of towers apparently inspired by 1930s Chicago. The plan’s likelihood of being built has been waning for some years, but Monday’s announcement has led the press to pronounce it definitively obsolete. For a city with such a complex past, this means a lot, a sign that Berlin is at last finding a way to come to terms with its recent history.