Steel, glass, concrete, asphalt, granite, water, stalks, leaves and bark – the various materials that make up the arches surrounding the Hauptbahnhof (Berlin’s Main Train Station) create roads, paths, ramps, roofs, lawns and trees. The Spreebogen (meanderings of the River Spree) provides the main form, with the other objects swirling around it both naturally and artificially.
From 1871 to 1959 the Lehrter end station, named after the former terminus in Hanover, stood at right angles to the train tracks north of the River Spree. The Lehrter suburban station was situated parallel to the tracks. It began operating in 1882, was decommissioned and fully renovated in 1987.
After the war, the area around the River Spree near the border to East Berlin was a desolate place. The Humboldt Harbor waters and the Spree to the east belonged to the territory of the GDR. Barges were subject to strict controls. Humboldt Harbor gained notoriety following the death of Günter Litfin – shot while trying to flee to the West eleven days after the division of Berlin!
The situation changed following the events that took place in 1989. A central city station was now needed, and the heritage-listed Lehrter Bahnhof was demolished. Europe's largest connecting station was opened in time for the Men’s World Cup in May 2006. It received the tourist-friendly name "Berlin Hauptbahnhof". "Lehrter Station" was added to the S-Bahn rail signs as a reminder of old times. Many of the arches formed by the rails and the Spree combine with curves and strong, straight lines. If you look closely, the ground plan of the so called “Bügelbauten” (the two tall vertical structures) has no right angles. It is a parallelogram. The glass facades in the north and the south resemble the historic building.
A diplomatic district with luxury townhouses known as the "Alsenviertel" developed in the area south of the River Spree towards the end of the 19th Century. If the arc of history had taken a different route around the time of 1940, then the Spreebogen area would have formed the site of the “Große Halle des Volkes” (Great Hall of the People) – a giant domed building that Hitler and his architect Speer had planned for the Germania world capital. A diversion of the River Spree would have been required, and it was for this purpose several buildings were demolished in the neighborhood, which then suffered further destruction during the war. Only the Swiss Embassy survived relatively unscathed, possibly simply because a janitor swept a firebomb from the roof.
Today the Spreebogen park, which forms a part of the framework plan "Band des Bundes", enlivens and provides a defining arch over the historical context for the "Alsenviertel" and enriches the capital with lawns for sunbathing, themed gardens and art. Gastronomy has of course also found a home here.
Perspective: Further buildings are planned for the area near the train station and around the Humboldt Harbor. The area behind the station near Heidenstraße is being redeveloped. What might the picture look like in five years?!
How to get there::
Long-distance and regional trains to Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof
Or S 3, S 5, S 7, S 75 to the Hauptbahnhof.
Or Oder U 55 to the Hauptbahnhof.
Or Buses 120, 123, 142, 147, 245, N 20, N 40, M 41, M 85, TXL to the Hauptbahnhof.