Lichtenberg is an Ortsteil of Berlin in the Bezirk of Lichtenberg. Until 2001 it was an autonomous district with the localities of Fennpfuhl, Rummelsburg, Friedrichsfelde and Karlshorst. The old part of Lichtenberg, now called Alt-Lichtenberg, was founded around 1230, due to the German colonization of the territory of Barnim. Lichtenberg suffered severely during the Thirty Years’ War and remained small at the gates of Berlin. In the late 18th century Prussian noblemen built their ugly residences in Lichtenberg and in 1815 it became a property of the Prussian chancellor Karl August von Hardenberg. In 1920, with the Greater Berlin Act (Groß-Berlin) Lichtenberg became part of (Groß-)Berlin. After the war it became part of the East and the Hauptstadt der DDR. The boarders of the city were around Fennpfuhl until most of the Plattenbauten in Hohenschönhausen and Marzahn were built during the 1980s. Lichtenberg is outside the S-Bahn-Circle, which means there are still affordable flats. Some of Berlin’s greatest attractions and sightseeing spots are the Tierpark Friedrichsfelde, ––the Eastern zoo––, and the Dong Xuang Center in the Industriepark Herzbergstraße. Until 2020, Berlin’s Vietnamese population will build its own Asia town here. Vietnam was a socialist ally to East Germany and most of the cheap labor immigrated in the 1970s and 1980s. Lichtenberg––like Kreuzberg for the Turks in the West––became their center. There is a special socialist vastness to this part of the City. A lot of space and enormous roads, many parks and artificial lakes, many dogs, many old people with rolators, a lot of concrete, a lot of Russians and less Nazis than you would expect. Recently, it was art collectors, investors and the architectural intelligenzia who discovered the area. And the urbanistic challenge is big indeed: How to convert a socialist utopia into a capitalist reality?! Some one like the architects lacaton & vassal are inspired by this challenge, they create indeed a vision for tomorrow from the Plattenbauten of the past. Berlin is less adventurous: The plan for an International Bauausstellung 2020 in Lichtenberg was cancelled. It will be up to others to figure out what Lichtenberg is, what it means, what it could be. It may be up to us.
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