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The Europa-Center is a building complex on the Breitscheidplatz in Berlin, notable for its high-rise tower. During the 1960s it became one of the iconic sights of West Berlin, along with the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. It is a historically preserved building.
History of the site
The site of the present-day Europa-Center, in "New West" Berlin (also known as "City-West"), was from 1916 home to the Romanisches Café, a legendary meeting place for writers, artists and people in the theatre business, as well as those who aspired to join them. After being bombed during the Second World War in November 1943 the building lay in ruins. For a decade the premises were used only intermittently, according to need. Makeshift constructions were used variously by wrestlers, circus performers and missionaries, followed by food outlets and briefly a cinema hosting so-called Sittenfilme ("films of manners"). A local newspaper described the site as a "stain on Berlin's calling card".
Soon after the division of the city by the construction of the Berlin Wall, in 1961, the situation changed. New buildings were politically desirable and were encouraged as symbols of West Berlin's vitality and durability. The Breitscheidplatz, a square in the central part of West Berlin, needed further improvement in addition to the recently finished Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. The successful Berlin businessman and investor Karl Heinz Pepper was appointed to oversee construction. He commissioned Helmut Hentrich and Hubert Petschnigg to design and build an office and shopping centre following the American model. Egon Eiermann, architect of the Memorial Church, was involved as an artistic advisor. Construction work began in 1963, and on 2 April 1965 the Europa-Center was inaugurated by Mayor Willy Brandt.
What had been built was a complex with a total floor space of 80,000 square metres, divided into distinct units: a two-storey foundation with a basement and two inner courtyards, a cinema, a hotel, an apartment block, and the box-shaped high-rise with a height of 86m, 21 storeys and 13,000 square metres of office space. At the time the high-rise was the only one of its kind in Berlin, and hence was a defining feature of Berlin's urban geography, frequently referenced in other designs. Numerous renovations and modernisations since then have served to increase the attractiveness and hence the commercial success of the building. For example the inner courtyards have been given canopies, and the skating rink in one of the courtyards was removed in 1979. In 2005 the operators of the complex gave the number of shops and food outlets as around 100, with between 20,000 and 40,000 visitors daily.
On top of the high-rise, and visible across Berlin, is a large metal star-in-a-circle symbol, the logo of car manufacturer Mercedes-Benz. It weighs 15,000 kg, has an outer diameter of 10 metres, completes approximately two revolutions a minute, and glows at night with the help of 68 fluorescent tubes. It can be tilted back for maintenance work, and in stormy weather it automatically turns into the wind.
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- Website of the Europa-Center in Berlin (English version)