The Ghosts of Berlin: Confronting German History in the Urban Landscape by Brian Ladd

December 2018

I found this book at a great second-hand bookstore in Seattle (Mercer St. Books) and almost didn’t buy it because, even though it’s right up my alley, it’s also about 20 years old now and I wasn’t sure it would have anything to say about the Berlin of 2018. I was very wrong. It’s an astute and still very relevant analysis of post-Wall Berlin and how the city grapples with its history through architecture (and grapples with its architectural history). The landscape of Berlin is a source of endless fascination to me, and I lapped up everything Ladd had to say about buildings and monuments in Berlin, and things that have been turned into monuments (like the Wall), and the layout of the city, and “heritage,” and “authenticity,” and commerce, and art.

What was perhaps most remarkable was just how much things haven’t changed in 20 years. Structures have been torn down and many others have been (re-)built, but Berlin is still struggling with the same issues it’s faced basically since 1945 - and this book does great justice to that.

Further reading…