Settings in Castorf’s RING • Alexanderplatz in Berlin

Alexanderplatz in Berlin, known as »Alex« for short, is one of the settings to which Frank Castorf takes us in his production of »Siegfried«. »Beautiful« is perhaps not the right epithet when one tries to describe the character of the square; rather, it embodies the charm of the 60s with concrete buildings from East German times. And yet the square in Berlin plays a central role, not only in local terms, both as a major traffic junction and because of its shopping facilities, but also as a tourist attraction and last but not least because of it historical importance.

From the 13th century on, the square was used as the site of a cattle market, a wool market and later as a market for oxen. It was given its name when the Russian Tsar Alexander I visited King Frederick William III in Berlin in 1805. A few years later, Alexanderplatz was the scene of some clashes during the March Revolution in 1848, when the population rose up to express its dissatisfaction with the prevailing state of affairs in the country. Following the First World War, there were again some skirmishes here in 1918/19, when revolutionaries led by Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg tried to overthrow the monarchy in Germany and establish a parliamentary democratic republic. After heavy bombing shortly before the end of the Second World War in 1945, Alexanderplatz lay in a heap of rubble, and was only given its present appearance in the 60s. For the 20th anniversary of the foundation of East Germany in 1969, Alexanderplatz was declared the focus of the new city centre and, among other things, the television tower, the Fountain of Friendship between Nations and the Urania World Time Clock were built. 4th November, 1989, witnessed the biggest movement for democracy seen in socialist East Berlin up to that time, with the final rally held in Alexanderplatz. Contrary to what is often assumed, the demonstration was not in support of the reunification of Germany, but aimed at a democratic renewal of East Germany.

Even today, we still hear ideas and discussions about redesigning Alexanderplatz, but a shortage of funds and constant bickering mean that none of them has been implemented completely. Nevertheless, Alexanderplatz in Berlin has always retained its status as a living centre of the capital.

Sources:

http://www.treffpunkt-berlin.eu/strassen-und-plaetze/berlin-mitte/alexanderplatz.php (accessed 16.02.2015)
http://www.anderes-berlin.de/html/der_alexanderplatz.html (accessed 16.02.2015)

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