Julia M. Littlefield '11

Spaces of Transit / Transitional Spaces: Examining the Partial Ruins of Berlin’s Anhalter Bahnhof

As a German major and History minor particularly interested in urban and architectural history, I designed a project that not only merged my two academic interests but also integrated my experiences studying abroad in Berlin. While there, I came across the ruined portal of a former train station, the Anhalter Bahnhof, and was immediately intrigued by its mysteriousness. I questioned the significance of the space to the city, and wondered why the ruins stood, without any obvious signage, largely unacknowledged and anonymous to the average passer-by.

Spaces of Transit / Transitional Spaces: Examining the Partial Ruins of Berlin’s Anhalter Bahnhof

My honors project, however, is not just an architectural history of the Anhalter Bahnhof. Rather, I examine the historical and cultural significance of the train station and consider it within the larger context of Berlin’s dynamic urban landscape as well as its social, cultural and political history. More specifically, I investigate how the station achieved an iconic status during various temporal “nodes” of the 20th century: pre-Wall Berlin, post-Wall Berlin and the Weimar Republic, and I argue that the privileged pieces of its historical narrative are inherently interconnected. Today, the void left by the station’s demolition exists as an open space in which different stratum of the past and present intersect and interact, a space that has and still exists in a constant state of transition.

I was fortunate enough to receive the Grua/O’Connell Research Award for this project, which allowed me to return to Berlin during my senior year to gather primary materials from state archives and museums as well as conduct interviews with Berlin historians. Without the generosity of Peter Grua and Mary O’Connell, and the individuals who aided me with my research in Berlin, this project would not have been possible.