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Bauabschnitt 2 der Karl-Marx-Allee (1959–1965)
Karl-Marx-Allee – second construction phase (1959–1965) © Landesdenkmalamt Berlin, Foto: Wolfgang Bittner

Karl-Marx-Allee – second construction phase

Connecting with the modern era

East Berlin’s town planners received a decree: their Stalinist “wedding-cake” architecture was no longer desired.

Times change: In 1954 the dictator Stalin had been dead for a year and Nikita Khrushchev was in power as the new Soviet head of state. This influenced politics and city architecture, also in the GDR.

Stalinallee between Frankfurter Tor and Strausberger Platz is characterised by residential palaces: buildings with modern fittings and neo-classical façades. Yet these came at a price. For the city’s model building, the Hochhaus an der Weberwiese, the construction costs for each apartment were nine times higher than average. This was much too expensive for the millions of homes needed after the destruction of the Second World War. The quality of the buildings was also often inadequate: the first ceramic tiles began to fall off only a few years after the façades had been completed.

Hermann Henselmann, East Berlin’s head architect, did not initially receive any new instructions. In the past, the architect had attempted to build modern, clean-cut and functional buildings in the GDR, but without success. At that time he had to adapt to the dominant style and find a German form of expression for Socialist Classicism.

Bauabschnitt 2 der Karl-Marx-Allee (1959–1965)
Bauabschnitt 2 der Karl-Marx-Allee © Landesdenkmalamt Berlin, Foto: Wolfgang Bittner

Anders als im ersten Bauabschnitt, in dem Häuser im aufwendigen Stil des Sozialistischen Klassizismus dominieren, entschied sich die Jury beim zweiten Bauabschnitt für den Entwurf der Stadtplaner Josef Kaiser, Edmund Collein und Werner Dutschke, der eine gemischte Bebauung aus Plattenbauten, Geschäften, Restaurants und kulturellen Einrichtungen vorsah. Hierzu zählen u. a. das Café Moskau, die Mokka-Milch-Eisbar, das Hotel Berolina und das Kino International.

State of the art

In 1957, as a reaction to the buildings on Stalinallee, West Berlin hosted the architectural exhibition Interbau in Hansaviertel. International architects constructed housing developments there according to modern standards. The wedding-cake palaces were not only too expensive, they also made the GDR appear behind the times. And so the GDR realised that its own architecture must find a connection with the modern era.

Henselmann saw this as a new opportunity. In 1958, he published his plans for the second construction phase on Stalinallee, between Strausberger Platz and Alexanderplatz, in which his clean-cut and functional ideas came into effect. However, he committed a strategic mistake by calling for a reversal of Socialist architecture before the SED Politbüro had announced it. As a result, he lost his position as head architect.

After Henselmann’s dismissal, other architects were given responsibility for the second phase of construction on Karl-Marx-Allee, as Stalinallee was renamed in late 1961. These were primarily Josef Kaiser, Werner Dutschke and Edmund Collein. On the 6th of October, 1959 they lay the foundation stone for 4,674 apartments. However, this stone had a symbolic significance only: there was no longer any need for masons laying bricks one on top of the other. In the following six years, machines used the large-panel building system to assemble industrially manufactured concrete slabs into prefabricated tower blocks.

It was not only the technology that changed. Unlike the first construction phase on the former Stalinallee in Friedrichshain, the buildings in the district of Mitte were not constructed as block-edge developments. The tower blocks made from prefabricated concrete slabs are free-standing, broken up by numerous green areas.

Outsourced entertainment

When you walk along Karl-Marx-Allee, take a closer look at the area between where Berolinastraße and Schillingstraße meet the avenue. One of the most notable buildings of this construction phase is located here – Kino International, which has a spacious lounge on the first floor.

At this spot you will notice other pavilions with large panes of glass and narrow aluminium frames. At the time, architects aspired for a strict separation of residential and functional buildings. In contrast to the residential palaces, the prefab tower blocks did not house any businesses or shops. Instead, a cultural and commercial centre, consisting of a restaurant, hotel and other businesses, were concentrated in the area around the Schillingstraße underground station.

The Soviet speciality restaurant Café Moskau and the Mokka-Milch-Eisbar youth club were among the attractions. These functional buildings have new uses today, whereas the former Hotel Berolina no longer exists.

Along the Karl-Marx-Allee

Berlin Tourist Info im Hotel Park Inn
© visitBerlin, Foto: Dirk Mathesius

Berlin Tourist Info Centre in the Park Inn at Alexanderplatz

Alexanderplatz 7
(Hotellobby)
Berlin 10178
Germany

Alexanderplatzis one of the most famous squares in Berlin and certainly the largest. Pay us a visit in the Berlin Tourist Info Centre in the Hotel Park Inn by Radisson to get useful information and insidertips before starting your sightseeing tour, the inspection of TV tower or your shopping trip.

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Alexanderplatz
© iStock.com, Foto: Robert Herhold

Alexanderplatz

ALEXANDERPLATZ
Alexanderplatz 4
Berlin 10178
Germany

Alexanderplatz has always been one of the liveliest places in Berlin, with shops, cinemas, restaurants, and many attractions within walking distance.

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GDR architecture at its best
© visitBerlin, Foto: Dirk Mathesius

bcc Berlin Congress Center

Haus des Lehrers & bcc Berlin Congress Center
Alexanderstraße 9/11
Berlin 10178
Germany

The ‘Haus des Lehrers’ and the adjacent congress hall, which today is home to the bcc (Berlin Congress Center), create the immediate neighbourhood of Alexanderplatz. The building complex was constructed in the early 1960ies by architect Hermann Henselmann and focuses on functionality and transparency. The congress hall is easily recognisable by its aluminium cupola, which is also its largest function room with seats for a 1000-strong audience. Overall the congress hall has over 30 function rooms and 3000 sqm exhibition space.

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Cinema International in Berlin
© Landesdenkmalamt Berlin, Foto: Wolfgang Bittner

Kino International

Kino International
Karl-Marx-Allee 33
Berlin 10178
Germany

The picture palace is a feast for the eyes of GDR Modernism.

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Camp 4

Camp 4
Karl-Marx-Allee 32
Berlin 10178
Germany

In addition to the usual articles for outdoor life, there is also a great variety of rucksacks and shoes. Our experienced sales staff will gladly help you out in a professional manner. For those who love trekking, this is definitely the store to visit. Camp 4 is located near Alexanderplatz.

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Strausberger Platz in Berlin
© visitberlin, Foto: Wolfgang Scholvien

Stalinallee

Stallinallee (1. Bauabschnitt)
Strausberger Platz 1
Berlin Mitte 10243
Germany

Modern apartments with historical facade decorations – the GDR builds workers’ palaces in the Stalinist wedding-cake style.

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Computerspielemuseum - eines der ungewöhnlichen Museen in Berlin.
© Hans-Martin Fleischer/CSM

Computerspielemuseum (Computer Games Museum)

Computerspielemuseum
Karl-Marx-Allee 93a
Berlin 10243
Germany

Take a trip through over 30 years of gaming, from the first consoles to 3D technology at the Computerspielemuseum - Berlin's museum of the computer game.

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The Architekturgalerie Berlin
© visitBerlinn, Foto: Atelier ST

Architektur Galerie Berlin

Architektur Galerie Berlin
Karl-Marx-Allee 96
Berlin 10243
Germany

Architektur Galerie Berlin was founded by architect Ulrich Mueller in 1999 and moved to its present location on Karl-Marx-Allee in Berlin-Mitte in 2006. Within the multifaceted Berlin exhibition scene, Architektur Galerie Berlin serves as a unique venue to examine architecture, distinct from conventional exhibitions.

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Brunnen am Strausberger Platz
© visitberlin, Foto: Philip Koschel

WAGNER + PARTNER Gallery

Wagner Art Beteiligungs GmbH
Karl-Marx-Allee 87
Berlin 10243
Germany

The gallery’s international program focuses on contemporary photography, painting, and installations. The focus is on artists who address the relationships of space, time, and identity. In a fruitful relationship to the historic architecture of the …

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Karl-Marx-Allee
© visitBerlin, Foto: Günter Steffen

Rosengarten Karl-Marx-Allee

Rosengarten Karl-Marx-Allee
Karl-Marx-Allee 103
Berlin 10243
Germany

On Karl-Marx-Allee in Friedrichshain, a park with roses, bushes, shrubs, pergolas, benches and walks was built in the 1950s between the magnificent buildings of what was formerly Stalinallee.

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Hochhaus an der Weberwiese
© Landesdenkmalamt Berlin, Foto: Wolfgang Bittner

apartment tower at the 'Weberwiese'

Hochhaus an der Weberwiese
Marchlewskistraße 25
Berlin 10243
Germany

A model for Stalinallee: with the Hochhaus an der Weberwiese (literally, the high-rise at Weberwiese), Hermann Henselmann created the first residential palace featuring the ‘wedding-cake’ style of architecture.

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Our tips for Karl-Marx-Allee

Info stations along Karl-Marx-Allee provide fascinating insights into the individual construction phases. City tours run by art:Berlin, Ansichtssachen and TICKET B will take you on an exciting journey through the history of Berlin’s buildings.

Practical information from visitBerlin

The best way of reaching Karl-Marx-Allee from Alexanderplatz is on the U5 U-Bahn line. You can also walk from Alexanderplatz. To explore the city, we recommend the Berlin WelcomeCard for public transport.

Find further information here