Kurfürstendamm, Berlin

The world-famous Kurfürstendamm, known to Berliners simply as "Ku'damm," is Berlin's most popular shopping street and promenade. Its department stores, specialist shops, elegant boutiques and travel agencies, numerous hotels, restaurants (some with terraces and winter gardens), cafes, bars, cinemas and theaters attract large numbers of people in quest of entertainment or relaxation, and it is after midnight before there is any marked lull in the traffic and streams of people. The area bounded by Kurfürstendamm, Budapester Strasse and Tauentzien is second only to Alexanderplatz as Berlin's most important urban center. The great boulevard, 3.5km/2.2mi long and over 53 m/175ft wide, now extends from Breitscheidtplatz to Rathenauplatz near the Halensee. In the 16th C. this was the route followed by the Elector Joachim II when riding to his hunting lodge of Grunewald -- hence the name of Kurfürstendamm (Elector's Causeway). It was not until the end of the 19th C., on the initiative of Bismarck and with the approval of the Emperor William I, that it was developed into a main road leading to the Grunewald. Almost half of the magnificently fronted buildings on both sides of the boulevard were completely destroyed in 1945, and the rest suffered damage to a greater or lesser degree. The only remaining witnesses to the original street are the Iduna-Haus (No. 59/69, built 1905) and Nos. 201, 213-216 and 218 (1896); the huge street-lights have been restored in accordance with the original designs.
Post-war reconstruction has succeeded only to a limited degree in restoring the Kurfürstendamm to its former glory. Less inspiring architecture now dominates the scene. A number of main and side streets cross the Kurfürstendamm, and several of the junctions have been made into squares, including Joachimstaler Platz, Olivaer Platz, Adenauerplatz and Lehniner Platz, with bars, restaurants and shops.
Between Joachimstaler Platz and the junction with Ulandstrasse is the departure point for tours of the city by coaches owned by various firms.
In the city area Fasanenstrasse crosses the Kurfürstendamm. In its northern section the Jewish Community House is worth mentioning. So, too, are some recently renovated buildings south of the Kurfürstendamm.
House No. 23 (built in 1873) has been a residence since the street was first founded, and since 1986 it has housed the "Literaturhaus Berlin" (exhibitions and functions). There is a restaurant on the upper floor and a book shop in the basement.
House No. 24: This, the oldest residence on Fasanenstrasse, has since 1986 been the home of the Käthe-Kollwitz Private Museum, the ground floor contains a collection formed by the painter and art dealer Hans Pels-Leusden (open Wed.-Mon. 11am-6pm); by the side of the house and in the back garden is a display of sculptures, including "The Marcher" by Waldemar Grzimek.
House No. 25: The "Villa Grisebach" was built in 1891-92 and was once the townhouse of the architect Hans Grisebach. Partially destroyed in the Second World War, it now houses the important Pels-Leusden Art Gallery (open Mon.-Fri. 10am-6.30pm, Sat. 10am-2pm). At No. 26 you can visit the gallery of A. von Bethmann-Hollweg.
Between the next streets which cross Fasanenstrasse to the west - Uhlandstrasse and Knesebeckstrasse - the large complex of buildings called Kurfürstendamm-Karree (or Ku'damm Karree for short) grew up during 1971-74. It extends southwards as far as Lietzenburger Strasse and here you will find the well-known "Theater am Kurfürstendamm" (light plays and comedies) and the "Komödie" (light theater).
Adenauerplatz, where Wilmensdorfer Strasse and Brandenburgischer Strasse join the Kufürstendamm, is adorned by a fountain statue by Brigitte Matschinsky-Denninghoff (1975). Nearby, at the corner of Giesebrecht and Mommsenstrasse stands the monumental St George Fountain, built by Wilhelm Walter in 1904 and embellished with pillars. It was originally in the courtyard of the "Alt-Bayern" house at Potsdamer Strasse 24. When the latter was pulled down around 1975 the fountain was moved here. At Lehniner Platz, with its theater, is where the Wilmersdorf district begins.
Famous people who once resided in the Kurfürstendamm are commemorated by plaques on some of the houses. These include the poets Max Hermann-Neisse (No. 215) and Robert Musil (No. 217) and the composer and cabaret artist Rudolf Nelson (No. 186). On No. 68, the former Alhambra Cinema, a plaque commemorates the first sound-movie originally shown here in 1922.
On the occasion of the Berlin City Jubilee in 1987 the New Berlin Art Association presented a number of modern sculptures under the heading "Sculpture Boulevard Kurfürstendamm/Tauentzien." These have been set up at several of the junctions between Kurfürstendamm and Tauentzienstrasse. Among the works are:
At Tauentzien (the central strip between Marburger Strasse and Nürnberger Strasse): "Berlin," a large sculpture by Brigitte and Martin Matschinsky- Denninghoff. At Breitscheidplatz: "Two Lines Excentric Jointed With Six Angles," a kinetic sculpture by George Rickey. At Joachimstaler Platz: "13.4.1981" (at the time of evening street-riots), a sculpture of oversized police barricades by Olaf Metzel. At the junction of Kurfürstendamm and Bleibtreustrasse: "Pyramid," a steel sculpture by Josef Erben. At the junction of Kurfürstendamm and Schlüterstrasse with Wielandstrasse: "Great Shadow with Base," by Frank Dornseif At the entrance to Albrecht-Achilles-Strasse: "Large Figure of Berlin Women," a sculpture of two figures by Rolf Szymanski. At Rathenauplatz (island in the center): "Concrete Cadillac," a sculpture in concrete by Wolf Vostell.

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