The Berlin TV tower more commonly known as Fernsehturm (German for Television tower) is positioned within the city center of Berlin. Initially construction of the tower was due to be sited in southeast Berlin’s Müggelberg mountains, however due to tower being so tall within that location it would obstruct aircrafts entering and leaving the nearby planned airport Schönefeld International. In 1964 the idea of building the tower inside Berlin was created, Walter Ulbricht, the leader of the Socialist unity Party that governed over East Germany, decided that the construction of the television tower in Alexanderplatz should be constructed. It was built by East German architects Fritz Dieter, Günter Franke and Werner Ahrendt, of which architecturally resulted in a tall, lean, rocket-like building that resembled the soviet Sputnik satellite, a fascination with technology and space travel (TV-turm).
“The Berliner Fernsehturm was modeled on the Fernsehturm Stuttgart” (Mobilereference 2007).
The tower was constructed between 4 August 1965 and finished four years later with test broadcasts on 3 October 1969 as part of the World Federation of Great Towers (WFGT) by the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) within former East Berlin. The official inauguration happened four days later on the GDR’s National day. It intention was to be a symbol of there power within Berlin, of which it remains in today’s society due to its visibility throughout the whole of Berlin. In addition, the GDR saw the building as an opportunity to create a useful transmitter and to create an architectural status symbol that showed to the West its supremacy over it.
The original intended total height of the tower in 1969 was 365 meters, however it grew to 368m after the installation of a new antenna in the 1990’s. Fernsehturm is the largest building in Berlin. “The Fernsehturm is the fourth tallest freestanding structure in Europe, after Moscow’s Ostankino Tower, the Kiev TV Tower and the Riga Radio and TV Tower” (Mobilereference 2007).
The “Pope’s Revenge”
“When the sun shines on the Fernsehturm’s tiled stainless steel dome, the reflection usually appears in the form of a cross” (Mobilereference 2007). This crucifix-like effect was not desired of predicted by the architect. “As a jibe against the atheist foundations of the Communist government, and the ongoing suppression of church institutions in East Germany, West Berliners immediately named the luminous cross Rache des Papstes (Pope’s revenge). United States President Ronald Regan mentioned the cross phenomenon within his ‘Tear down this wall’ speech on 12 June 1987:
“Years ago, before the East Germans began rebuilding their churches, they erected a secular structure: the television tower at Alexanderplatz. Virtually ever since, the authorities have been working to correct what they view as the tower’s one major flaw: treating the glass sphere at the top with paints and chemicals of every kind. Yet, even today when the sun strikes that sphere that sphere that tower over all Berlin, the light makes the sign of the cross. There in Berlin, like the city itself, symbols of love, symbols of worship, cannot be suppressed.” (Mobilereference 2007).
By Rebecca Holland
MobileReference 2007 Travel Berlin, Germany for Smartphones and Mobile Devices – Illustrated City.