Image: Dietmar Rabich

Lampenladen (m.)

Lampenladen literally means a lamp store, but in East Berlin it was also a dig at the government. One of the most important buildings in the communist part of the city was the Palast der Republik, or the palace of the republic, which was a cultural centre with restaurants and a theatre, among other things.

It had a big glass facade and at night was brightly lit, which seemed obnoxious to some Berliners, who called the building “Erichs Lampenladen”. Erich Honecker was General Secretary of the ruling (and really only) party – and this was his massive lamp emporium.

The building, which replaced the war-damaged Berliner Stadtschloss, (city palace) was eventually demolished due to asbestos (which again is kinda funny). After some debate, the city decided to reconstruct the Stadtschloss exactly as it was, which should be finished in 2019.

I like the story of the Lampenladen because it touches on the issue of East Germany, but instead of highlighting the dictatorship, it reveals something of Berlin humour (or scorn) and is one major example of the city’s complex architectural history – not to mention the debates which are being had about its architectural future.

See also: the ongoing debacle which is Berlin Brandenburg Airport, an airport which was supposed to open in 2011… and is an utter financial disaster and a long-running joke. The stereotype of German efficiency and frugality has taken a real hard knock.