Unfinished Metropolis

Berlin | Exhibition
+++ Please inform yourself about the current opening times. +++

The New Municipality of Berlin, also called  Greater Berlin, was created one hundred years ago on 1 October 1920. It was a once-in-a-century event! The old Berlin was consolidated with seven cities, 59 rural communities and 27 agricultural estates. The exhibition uses exemplary locations, projects and plans to explore topics that have shaped and changed the metropolis of Berlin.


A giant city emerged almost overnight, with its area increasing from 66  square kilometres to 878 square kilometres and its population growing from 1.9 million to approximately 3.9 million.
There were two key reasons behind the formation of Greater Berlin: to facilitate orderly urban development and to tackle social inequality between rich and poor communities. Greater Berlin was not ruled by democratically elected governments for many years of its history. It was only governed democratically in the period from 1920 to 1933 and then again more recently since 1990. The Greater Berlin project has suffered many setbacks. The city is an incomplete project.

A once-negligible city has become a fascinating metropolis with an extraordinary history, during which it has experienced deep lows and towering highs and been a testing ground for European metropolises, a laboratory for town planning. The Berlin of today did not emerge haphazardly; rather, it is the result of our predecessors’ urban development endeavours. The metropolis is full of built attempts to shape the future, some successful and others not. The prerequisite for these efforts was a fundamental political decision: to create Greater Berlin in 1920. Like many metropolises, Berlin and the metropolitan region of Berlin-­Brandenburg are today under pressure to manage the influx of people and businesses to the benefit of all. At the same time, it is becoming increasingly obvious that we are endangering future generations through our consumption of resources. We understand that little remains the same, and this realisation leads to uncertainty and a dispute about how to shape change.


1920: A Crisis Year – The Creation of Greater Berlin The Greater Berlin Act was passed by the Prussian Parliament on 27 April 1920 and came into effect on 1 October 1920. The passing of the act came just a month after the Kapp Putsch at a time when both Berlin’s and Germany’s future was uncertain. It coincided with the severe crisis that followed the First World War and the end of the Spanish Flu pandemic. –––   On Track – Rail Trasport isssues The greater Berlin area came about as a result of the railway. High-speed rail transport made it possible to build the suburbs. The formation of Greater Berlin led to fundamental reform of the public transport system. A single, unified municipal transport company was created in 1928: Berliner Verkehrs-AG (BVG). –––   On The Road – Road Transport Issues Greater Berlin started out as a rail-oriented city, but it became more and more car-centric over time. The first car-focused plans were considered during the Greater Berlin Competition in 1910 and began taking shape during the Weimar Republic.


–––   The Centre of Everywhere – The Issue of the City’s Many Centres The city’s system of centres altered fundamentally after the creation of Greater Berlin. The emerging centre of the New West around the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church became more important, along with the undisputed main city centre between Alexander­platz and the Reichstag. –––   Is it Really Social? – The Housing Question Greater Berlin has always experimented with different forms of housing and urban development policy. It was centre stage in the struggle against the largest tenement city in the world. Sub-standard housing conditions and housing shortages have also been part of the history of Greater Berlin from the outset. –––   Parks, Squares and Sycamore Trees – Environmental Issues How can a city that is constantly growing remain healthy? The answer is simple: street trees and lots of lots of greenery! The Permanent Forest Agreement of 1915 was the first important step taken in efforts to protect green spaces. It reserved extensive areas of forest for local recreation.


Till Budde
Exhibition opening "Unvollendete Metropole: 100 Jahre Städtebau für Groß-Berlin" in the Kronprinzenpalais Unter den Linden


–––   Infrastructure, Industry and the Military – A Selection of Major Projects Big plans signify desired goals, but it is large projects that directly shape the urban space of major cities. Large projects in Berlin initially focused on industrial facilities, ports, military training areas, centres of science and hospital facilities, and ­later also included enormous power plants, airports, exhibition grounds and a film city just beyond the borders of Berlin. –––   Power and Powerlessness – A Series of Major Plans Major plans have paved the way of Greater ­Berlin. It all began with the Greater Berlin Competition of 1908 – 1910. This was followed by efforts to create a general settlement plan for Berlin and a devel­opment plan for Brandenburg-Mitte during the ­Weimar Republic. Work on the general devel­opment plan continued under the direction of Albert Speer. Plans developed by the planning collective working with Hans Scharoun came immediately after the war and then came the grand plans for the divided city.

Till Budde
Ceremony in the garden of the Kronprinzenpalais for the opening of the exhibition "Unvollendete Metropole"
Source: Berlin State Archives, F Rep. 270, A 9054
Overview plan according to the Greater Berlin Act of April 27, 1920 with 20 administrative districts and permanent forest areas.
Bild: Provisorischer Regionalausschuss. Planungsgruppe Potsdam: Grundlagen und Zielvorstellungen für die Entwicklung der Region Berlin. 1. Bericht – 5 / 90 – Kartenteil
Plan of the Provisional Regional Committee 1990. Even before the reunification of Berlin, a group of experts from East and West met. According to their recommendations, urban sprawl should be prevented, open spaces should be secured, existing centers strengthened, the urban cultural values of the region should be preserved, and equivalent living conditions should be sought public transport can be improved - and all of this in an ecologically and socially acceptable manner.


–––   In and out of favour – Planning Culture A development in Berlin has always been the subject of intense debate. Participants have in­cluded not just planning professionals, politicians and the administration, but also representatives of civil society and commerce. The debates have been about targets, instruments, institutions and funding. –––   An Unloved Capital? – A Window into Germany In 1920, Berlin had been Germany’s capital for less than half a century. Unlike London and Paris, Berlin was a far cry from being the undisputed centre of a large European country. The city was more like Rome and Moscow, a young capital with a mixed reputation. –––   A Kindred Place – The Cities and Countryside of Brandenburg Berlin is more than just the city. After the Thirty Years War, Friedrich Wilhelm, the Great Elector, expanded his new residence in the Margraviate of Brandenburg. There were already palaces in ­Oranienburg and Potsdam, and Charlottenburg Palace was soon added to their number. However, the Prussian kings mainly focused on developing Potsdam and they formed a unique complex of palaces and parks in the city southwest of Berlin. –––  We Are Not Alone! – Perspectives from Europe Around 1900, attempts began in Europe to reorganise large and rapidly expanding urban areas, politically, administratively and in terms of planning. This was an extremely difficult process, and not just in Berlin, where efforts were hindered by conflicting interests and so rarely successful.


Postkarte, Polinna Hauck Landscape + Urbanism/Studio Amore Burke Harmel Jank GbR
Postcard: Street festival on Bundesplatz, the heart of the Bundesallee, initiated by the Bundesplatz Initiative, October 2015. The Bundesallee is not just any street, the Bundesplatz is not just any square. Both stand out due to their special name, they also form one of the most striking urban figures in the Berlin city plan. In addition to the city motorway, they are both the most haunting witnesses of the transformation of West Berlin into a car-friendly city. Since 2010 the Initiative Bundesplatz, one of the largest citizens' initiatives in Berlin, has been campaigning for the revitalization of the square as a place to stay, for the containment of car traffic and, in the medium term, for the abandonment of the tunnel – so far, despite all verbal support, with limited success.



Due to pandemic hygiene regulations, only 358 visitors can be in the exhibition rooms at any one time for two hours at a time.

Guided Tours
If you are interested in a 120 minute tour of the exhibition, please send an email to fuehrungen@aiv-bb.de.
Please note that the maximum number of participants is limited to ten people. The cost for a guided tour is 70 €.

Unfinished Metropolis
+++ Please inform yourself about the current opening times. +++

Unter den Linden 3 | 10117 Berlin

free access