So, I'm officially on vacation, but I just got back from the neighbourhood of Friedrichshain in Berlin where I was staying with a friend. He lives very close to Frankfurter Tor, U-Bahn station and gate to what was to be the world's first socialist boulevard, proletariat residence and urban testament to the DDRs future society. East German intellectuals rushed to design the architectural and social blueprints for this neighbourhood, and the result is quite striking. The buildings are beautiful, high-density, mixed-use and generous, with allowances for public space and exercise, including the now-removed German Athletic Centre and swimming pool in the middle of the boulevard.
They were built so quickly, I was told, that they weren't structurally sound, so a few of the buildings (including the Athletic Centre) were condemned. The new buildings, built in the 1980s when the political temperament had changed, are striking in their lack of utopian belief--almost mournful for the excitement and hope for the future that seemed lost.
On an interesting and fitting note, the street physically connects with the Straße der Pariser Kommune. (babble thread about the Paris Commune) Is Karl-Marx-Allee another one of these moments (Paris Commune of 1871, May 1968, however fleeting, which signal the viability and potential of socialist politics? Or are its pre-fab buildings, poor maitenance and its other hallmarks of capitalism simply another broken promise?