A tourist’s comparison of Berlin to Birmingham

From the 29th January to the 2nd Febraury, myself and a group of BA Arch students travelled to Berlin as part of a student trip for us to explore great examples of musuem design for an upcoming project. It would have been a waste, however, not to use this trip for research for other projects. This trip would particularly benefit the work that I will be doing as part of Keeley Travel.


Straight away, it was clear there was a much bigger focus on tourism in Berlin. The city has seen so much history, leaving many monuments and attractions that provide a huge amount of tourist traffic for the city. Birmingham as a city lacks a lot of these cultural and historical landmarks; not to say it lacks any, just less dramatic and as widely known globally.20180130_142709

Many areas of Berlin feel a lot more like London than Birmingham. This seems entirely logical, given those city’s statuses as country capitals. Wide pedestrian roads, iconic musuems and imposing buildings dominate the central part of Berlin, around the river Spree. This area reminds me strongly of the Thames area of London. Birmingham, however, lacks a large central river such as these and therefore has a much different layout to Berlin, instead focus is on the canal system.


One of the biggest contributing factors to Berlin’s Identity is the East – West Split of the now demolished Berlin Wall. In terms of transport, the West has a larger focus on the underground system, whereas the East is where you would be able to find tram systems to get around as well. With rebuilding of structures since the fall, the identities of both sides have become slightly blurred, with some buildings using a universal ‘contemporary’ style, but differences arise in the urban planning. The East’s Alexanderplatz feels like more of a monument than a city centre, compared to City West, which draws heavy inspiration from other cities in the western hemisphere; tall buildings of steel and glass, with rapidly changing districts.20180131_161225

There are some similarities to be drawn between the two cities however. Both have a history of industry and metalworking, which has shaped the identity of them each in turn.

While never finished, Birmingham is home to a series of tunnels that would have formed an underground system much like the one in Berlin, but a smaller scale. It could be interesting to map out these tunnels in possible, working out where the stations would be placed, and if ‘tourism’ would have any effect on this.

Tyler Cook

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