I have been to West Berlin a few hundred times but, for me, that part of the city is still a mystery. Sometimes you look into a different direction and something completely new pops up before your eyes. This is what happened to me one day when I left Kurfürstendamm U-Bahn and looked up at the subway exit at Joachimstaler Strasse. There was a prismatic building looking over the street and I had no idea what is was. After some online research, a name came to me: Verkehrskanzel.
Verkehrskanzel is the last surviving traffic pulpit in Berlin. Located at Joachimsthalerplatz, this box-like building made of glass was built over 4.5 meters in height. It stands over a pavilion where there’s a sales kiosk, a public toilet and one of the entries to Kurfürstendamm U-Bahn. The construction started all the way back in 1955 but the building was, pretty much, obsolete in less than ten years. All this happened due to automation.
The Verkehrskanzel was built in the fifties, a time when a car was the symbol of modernity and what the future would be. Designed by the urban architect Werner Klenke and Werner Düttmann led by Bruno Grimmek. The idea was to improve the Kurfürstendamm U-Bahn subway station with a kiosk, telephone booths and underground toilets in one building. Something really modern for the time it was built.
The traffic pulpit was built to host a police officer that would be paying attention to the cars and buses coming around Kurfürstendamm and turn on and off the traffic lights based on what he was seeing. This is why the Verkehrskanzel was built and it worked really well from December 1955 to October 1962. Until the time when the traffic lights in the area received automatic circuits and made the place useless.
I can only imagine how hot it would be to work in the Verkehrskanzel during the summer months. Right now, Joachimsthalerplatz has some trees but, all the way back in 1961, there are none. The sun would turn this traffic tower into an oven and I’m happy that nobody works inside there today.
But the Verkehrskanzel is still there, more than 50 years after it became useless. In 1989, the building was put under monument protection due to its historical and artistic importance but nobody seems to know about this place. But Verkehrskanzel still stands there as an important document of how optimistic urban planning was in the post-war Berlin.
Kurfürstendamm 203 – Berlin