April 2018

Urban stories

By Carsten Paulun
Transformation means progress and nowhere else can it be felt more distinctly than in our cities. Pulsating metropolises that grow, prosper – and change. Survey the pictures on the following pages and share our amazement.
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1912 I TODAY
Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai (United Arab Emirates)

The origins of Sheikh Zayed Road date back far to the Bedouin age. Used as an old trade route and paved over the course of the centuries, this is the place where the tallest building in the Middle East, the tower of the Dubai World Trade Center with a height of 149 meters (489 feet), is inaugurated in 1979. Dubai’s economic success is reflected in the ensuing construction boom. The ruling Sheiks invest their petro dollars and transform the economy: from oil to real estate, construction, trade, transportation and tourism. One after the other, skyscrapers pop up from the desert soil along the main street that has since been named Sheikh Zayed Road. They include Burj Khalifa that with a height of 828 meters (2,722 feet) is currently the tallest building in the world. A driverless metro system connects the city center with famous tourist attractions and the airport. The shelters of the bus lines are fully air conditioned. By the way, today not even five percent of the emirate’s gross domestic product is generated by petroleum. The origin of this wealth is a simple trade route in the sand …

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1919 I TODAY
Times Sqare, New York (USA)

Around 1900 – when New York City already has a population of 3.4 million – the junction of Broadway and Seventh Avenue is still called Longacre Square and home to the carriage trade and horse stables. The busy square only becomes Times Square when the famous “New York Times” erects its new building there in 1904. Times Square also receives a stop of the metro system that is inaugurated the same year. Above ground, the square bustles with automobiles, trucks, streetcars and – even as late as after the end of the First World War – also still with carriages as can be seen in the background of the photograph (above right). Times Square soon becomes an attractive place for theaters, bars and elegant hotels fittingly accompanied by the advent of the traditional large, colorful billboards. However, the growing popularity of television subsequently causes a decline in movie and musical audiences and spreading of adult theaters and strip clubs. In 1976, the New York Police Department declares Times Square the most dangerous place in the city. Starting in the mid-1980s, the area is “cleaned up” and made attractive for investors. Companies like MTV, Sony and Condé Nast move in, tradition-steeped hotels are reopened and attract local residents as well as tourists from all over the world. Today, pedestrians are afforded a lot more space than automobiles as the picture clearly shows. The speed at which change can happen is also shown by Formula E champion Lucas di Grassi in an Instagram post.

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1900 I TODAY
Champs-Elyssées, Paris (France)

The world-famous boulevard in the French capital dates back to the reign of Louis XIV who in 1667 has the first section built of the Champs-Élysées, then called the “Grand Cours.” As the picture from 1900 clearly reveals, the magnificent avenue is a catwalk for the members of genuine and moneyed aristocracy. Horse-drawn carriages chauffeur the rich and famous down the 1,910 meter (6,266 feet) long and 70 meter (2,230 feet) wide Champs-Élysées which, except for these carriages, has very little traffic. The following decades see an increasing democratization of mobility – between Place de la Concorde and Arc de Triomphe just like everywhere else in the western world. After the Second World War, the automobile becomes a means of mass transportation and starts flooding the cities – including the Champs-Élysées. However, the picture changes again, as it does in many other metropolises of the world. Only the rich can afford to pay the astronomically high rents in city centers. Average earners have to move farther and farther into suburbia. In cities like Paris and London, people with average incomes are already spending two hours a day commuting to work: not in their own cars, though. City tolls, the scarcity of parking places and areas from which automobiles have been banned (since May 2016, the Champs-Élysées has been closed to motorized vehicles every first Sunday of the month) are now driving normal motorists out of city centers.

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1936 I TODAY
Tokyo-Eki, Tokio (Japan)

In 1868, Tokyo – then a city of 600,000 – becomes the Emperor’s seat and capital of Japan, which marks the beginning of a population boom. By the time the First World War starts two million people are living in Tokyo. Only three decades later, the population has grown to 6.5 million. The infrastructure has to keep pace with this growth and rail transportation is one of the central aspects. Today, the Tokyo-Yokohama Metropolitan Area has the world’s most extensive and most heavily frequented urban rail network. Tokyo Station, called Tokyo-eki in Japanese, is the most impressive terminal. At the beginning of the 20th century, Franz Blatzer is commissioned to plan the station, but the ideas of the German engineer who previously participated in the construction project of the Berlin rail network and studied Japanese architecture is rejected by the officials as being “too Japanese.” Instead a station is built that has been designed by Japanese architect Tatsuno Kingo, a Neo-Baroque building bearing some resemblance to the Amsterdam central station. In 1914, Tokyo Station – Japan’s most modern one at the time – is inaugurated. Particularly prominent besides the two buildings with rooftop domes is the large square in front of the station. Following its near-complete destruction in the war, the station is rebuilt bit by bit after the end of the war. Since 2012, it has been completely restored – albeit in a totally transformed environment as you can tell when opening this spread …

By the time the First World War starts two million people are living in Tokyo. Only three decades later, the population has grown to 6.5 million. The infrastructure has to keep pace with this growth and rail transportation is one of the central aspects. Today, the Tokyo-Yokohama Metropolitan Area has the world’s most extensive and most heavily frequented urban rail network. Tokyo Station, called Tokyo-eki in Japanese, is the most impressive terminal. At the beginning of the 20th century, Franz Blatzer is commissioned to plan the station, but the ideas of the German engineer who previously participated in the construction project of the Berlin rail network and studied Japanese architecture is rejected by the officials as being “too Japanese.” Instead a station is built that has been designed by Japanese architect Tatsuno Kingo, a Neo-Baroque building bearing some resemblance to the Amsterdam central station. In 1914, Tokyo Station – Japan’s most modern one at the time – is inaugurated. Particularly prominent besides the two buildings with rooftop domes is the large square in front of the station. Following its near-complete destruction in the war, the station is rebuilt bit by bit after the end of the war. Since 2012, it has been completely restored – albeit in a totally transformed environment as you can tell when opening this spread …

Tokyo Station is located between the Emperor’s Palace and the Ginza shopping and entertainment district. Restored by 2012 to its original condition from 1914 and subsequently made earthquake-proof, the station that today is located between skyscrapers brings back memories of less hectic times even though it’s still one of the traffic hubs of Tokyo-­Yokohama, the world’s most populous metropolitan area with 38 million residents. Ten platforms of the Shinkansen high-speed train meet with an equal number of tracks of the Japanese JR-East regional train and two lines of the Tokyo Metro.

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1924 I TODAY
Potsdamer Platz, Berlin (Germany)

No more than a trade post outside Berlin’s Customs Wall in the 17th century, Potsdamer Platz starts becoming increasingly relevant with the first train station in 1838. By the late 19th century, ­Potsdamer Platz has evolved into a center of commerce and culture. From 1920 to 1930, it’s the busiest square in Europe. The largest department store and the largest restaurant in the world are located here. From 1924 on, the city government attempts to control the chaos of streetcars, automobiles, carriages, cyclists and pedestrians by installing Germany’s first traffic light – more or less unsuccessfully, so plans are made to transform the square. Pedestrian traffic is supposed to be routed through tunnels. The economic crisis and the war prevent these plans from becoming reality. From 1945 to 1989, the inner German border runs right through the middle of Berlin and the totally demolished Potsdamer Platz. In the 1990s, the area is one of Europe’s largest construction sites. At the turn of the millennium, life begins to pulsate again in Berlin’s old and new heart: urban transformation in fast forward mode.