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News that the first tower — a metre stack of twisting limestone blocks by architect Frank Gehry — will finally go up next year is proof that Berlin is slowly waking from its economic coma.
The metre high Zoofenster, home to the new Waldorf Astoria, opened across the street last year; its equally tall neighbour, dubbed Upper West, will open in The German government hired architect Jan Kleihues to design a collection of towers on federal land behind the station. Passengers stepped off their trains into a seedy blend of sex shops, neon-lit Kinos and low-rent hotels. But when Berlin reunited, all eyes turned eastward.
The final insult came in when Deutsche Bahn trains began bypassing Bahnhof Zoo altogether. Globalisation and tourism. The Bikinihaus is a long, skinny six-storey office block built in to fill a bombed-out gap between the Zoo and Breitscheidplatz. Architects Paul Schwebes and Hans Schoszberger gave the minimalist glass building a distinctive feature, an open second storey that divided it horizontally into two pieces — like a bikini.
A bomb-damaged cinema to the west of the building was rebuilt as the ultra-swanky Zoo Palast, for decades the home of the Berlinale film festival. The Bikinihaus sat empty and neglected. The Berlinale moved to the snazzy new Potsdamer Platz in , and the ageing Zoo Palast was slated for demolition.
In investors bought the complex and promised to return the buildings to their original splendour. Her slumber, he promised, was over. The wake-up call was an adrenaline heartjab of high-end stores, restaurants and a room designer hotel. They promise a non-traditional retail mix of Berlin-based clothing labels and global brands. Despite cost overruns and construction delays, the Bikinihaus, now renamed Bikini Berlin, will reopen April 3.