Berlin's modern bunkers Exactly 25 years after East Germany and West Germany became one, what is the architectural legacy of the last quarter century in the new-old German capital of Berlin? By Derek Scally Fri 2 Oct 2015 Berlin burying architectural potential in corporate opportunism The heart of the new Berlin is the new central station, completed ahead of the 2006 World Cup to plans by architect Meinhard von Gerkan Inside is a glazed cathedral to rail travel. When I brought a visiting friend and her father - a retired engineer - to have a look, the sight reduced him to tears. The real problems begin when you emerge from the station on the side facing the River Spree.The immediate area around the station looks unfinished, unloved and utterly random. The vast, windy square between the station and the river Spree is a vacant expanse that hardly earns its grand name Washingtonplatz. In the background, the government quarter at the Reichstag with its signature dome. Things look little better on the other side, at the grandly-named Europaplatz. A scrubby square of weeds, construction, choked with traffic and, in the foreground, the world's most expensive tram stop: a curved roof that cost €1 million, was finished a few weeks ago and is already in need of renovation. The entire waterside area here is still a building site, the Humboldt Harbour, though there are already a few interesting buildings, like the tower of the French oil giant Total Back on Washingtonplatz, the other buildings already finished around Berlin's central station - like this hotel - are modernist boxes... ...that soon tip over into cheap and cheerless, like this budget hotel, one of post-wall Berlin's most loathed buildings. The pattern - stone facade with elongated windows - continues at almost every building in the new train station quarter. Further down the River Spree, the pattern repeats itself in white plastic... ...and the pattern of elongated windows in a stone facade continues here at the new federal interior ministry... ...hardly a discreet addition behind the Paris-Moskau restaurant, one of the oldest buildings in central Berlin. In post-wall Berlin, an architectural version of Albert Einstein's definition of madness - doing something over and over and expecting different results -- continues at the new federal intelligence agency headquarters where the elongated windows go on and on. Breaking up the monotony are the fake palm trees, which are actually communication transmission towers. Here is a daring example of what the Berlin of the future could have looked like: a daring tower block devised but never built by architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe for a site at Berlin's Friedrichstrasse train station. And here is what was finally built on the site: a stubby office block that absorbs all light. Nearby, in a triumph of historical restoration, the reborn Prussian Palace, demolished by the communists in 1950 and replaced with the "Palast der Republik", a multi-purpose venue that was parliament, concert hall and bowling alley in one. Proving that, if a historical mistake is worth making, it's worth repeating, East Germany's Palast der Republic was demolished by 2008 and is now being replaced with a copy of the Prussian original: in concrete, to be clad in plaster The nearby Alexa centre, a pink shopping palace, is a close rival in the kitsch sweepstakes spread over two hectares and four floors and dubbed the "Pharaoh's Tomb" for its forbidding ridiculousness. Competing with Alexa for post-wall Berlin's most controversial building is the new apartment block built directly on the former's no-man's land at the Eastside Gallery, the longest surviving stretch of the Berlin Wall. A segment of the historic structure was removed to allow site and resident access to the riverside complex. While most of post-wall Berlin was rebuilt with a 22m limit, new towers are being allowed to go higher, like the Waldorf Astoria near Berlin's Zoo Station... ... and the steel-and-glass "New Kranzler Corner", towering above the historic Kranzler cafe on the Kurfürstendam built by Helmut Jahn. He also built the tower on the right-hand-side here at Potsdamer Platz, a joint private development near the Brandenburg Gate, by Daimler and Japan's Sony Corporation. Perhaps the most underrated star architect contribution to the post-wall Berlin is this: the extension to the German Historical Museum by I.M. Pei, better known for the Louvre Pyramid. To mark 25 years of German unification today, a temporary "Einheit" (Unity) installation has gone up in front of the museum's new swirling staircase.