chapter
18 Pages

Introduction

Reflecting: above and below
WithBenedict Anderson

In the early 1990s, the author's adoptive city of Berlin was engulfed by national, institutional and commercial building programmes. Many urban sites in the former East Berlin remained scarred by World War II and the subsequent partition of Germany. The programme of urban renewal referred to as critical reconstruction, an approach intended to achieve unified national identity with commercial interests through large-scale architectural and urban planning schemes, created a city constantly shifting between past, present and future. Throughout the history of human settlement there have been cities razed to the ground and erased from the face of the earth by war, natural catastrophes or, if people are to believe, divine intervention. The Great Fire of 1889 that burnt Seattle’s wooden buildings to a cinder also presented the authorities with the opportunity to drastically alter the city’s dramatic undulating topography as part of its reconstruction.