Enormous colourful mythical creatures will hover over Berlin’s famous avenue: Germany’s capital city will experience a magical open-air festival along the Kurfürstendamm on 4 September 2011. A group of French artists called Plasticiens Volants are planning to use metres-high mythical animals to transform the boulevard into a fantasy world for Berliners and their guests from all over the globe. The event is just one of the highlights of the festivities with which Berlin is celebrating the 125th birthday of the Kurfürstendamm – or just Ku’damm for short.
Completed in 1886, the Ku’damm has been a shopping street, a location for political meetings and a centre of attraction for tourists, artists and intellectuals. Its chequered past also makes it a symbol for the transformation of Berlin. In the Weimar era the former bridleway of the electors of Brandenburg was considered a symbol of the Golden Twenties. During the division of Berlin from 1961 to 1989/90 it was the centre of West Berlin. Kaufhaus des Westens (KaDeWe), the famous department store, Lunapark, the popular destination for excursions, Café Kranzler, a well-known meeting place for celebrities, the luxurious Kempinski Hotel, the Zoo Palast cinema and the Memorial Church have given the Ku’damm its unmistakeable face over the years. It is one of the world’s best known streets alongside the Champs-Elysées in Paris, Fifth Avenue in New York City, Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles and Oxford Street in London.
Today the avenue has to compete with Friedrichstrasse in Berlin-Mitte, but leading British architect David Chipperfield aims to return some of its old splendour. Chipperfield already attracted considerable attention with his design for the New Museum. Now he is planning to transform the Kudammkaree, a concrete block dating from the 1970s, into a modern shopping and cultural centre. Work should be finished in 2015. Until the end of October there is an exhibition of 125 display cabinets along the street as part of the official 2011 jubilee celebrations. And the website at www.kudamm2011.de enables fans from all over the world to present their personal photographs of the avenue under the heading “My Ku’damm”.
Top photo © Kulturprojekte Berlin/Plasticiens Volants