Essential Architecture-  Berlin

Alexanderplatz Fernsehturm the "Alex" or the "Pope's Revenge"


Hermann Henselmann and Jörg Streitparth


Alexanderplatz, east Berlin




Socialist Modern


concrete, modelled on the Fernsehturm Stuttgart


Television tower, "listening post"
  The "Pope's Revenge" reflection seen on the dome.

The Fernsehturm (German for "Television Tower") is a television tower in the centre of Berlin, Germany. It is a well-known landmark, close to Alexanderplatz. Geographical coordinates of the tower are 52°31'15?N, 13°24'34?E. The tower was built between 1965 and 1969 by the former German Democratic Republic (GDR), and its image was used as a symbol of Berlin by the GDR administration. The tower is easily visible throughout the central districts of Berlin, and remains a symbol of the city.

The original total height of the tower was 365 m, but after the installation of a new antenna in the 1990s, the height is now 368 m. The Fernsehturm is the second largest structure in Europe, after Moscow's Ostankino Tower. There is a visitor platform and a restaurant in the middle of the sphere. The visitor platform is at a height of about 204 meters above the ground. The restaurant, which rotates once every twenty minutes, is a few meters above the visitors platform. (Originally it turned once per hour; the speed was later doubled, and tripled following the tower's late 1990s renovation.)

Inside the shaft are two elevators for bringing visitors into the sphere section of the tower within 40 seconds. It is not accessible by wheelchair.

To mark the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany, and the final match in Berlin Olympic Stadium, the sphere was decorated as a football; it is colored magenta, the corporate color of World Cup sponsor Deutsche Telekom, owner of the tower.


In 1964, Walter Ulbricht, leader of the Socialist Unity Party which governed East Germany, decided to allow the construction of a television tower on Alexanderplatz. The Berliner Fernsehturm was modelled on the Fernsehturm Stuttgart. The architecture traces back to an idea from Hermann Henselmann and Jörg Streitparth. Walter Herzong and Herbert Aust later also took part in the planning. Construction began on August 4, 1965. After 4 years of construction, the Fernsehturm began test broadcasts on October 3, 1969, and was officially inaugurated four days later on the GDR's National Day. It is among the best known sights in Berlin, and has around a million visitors every year. ( not accessible by wheelchair ! ) It has been likened to a stalk of asparagus (West Berlin journalists sometimes referred to it as the Telespargel, "tele-asparagus") and the Death Star from Star Wars.

Although construction had begun on a television tower in southeast Berlin's Müggelberg, the project was halted, because a tower in that location would have been dangerous to planes entering and leaving nearby Schönefeld International Airport.

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. This effect was not desired by the planners; no one realized that it would look like this in advance. As a jibe against the atheist foundations of the Communist government, and the ongoing suppression of church institutions in East Germany, Berliners immediately named the luminous cross Rache des Papstes, or "Pope's Revenge". For the same reasons, the structure was also called "St. Walter" (from Walter Ulbricht).

U.S. President Ronald Reagan mentioned this phenomenon in his Brandenburg Gate speech on June 12, 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 towers 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.

Technical Details
Entrance of observation deck is at 6.25 m above ground
2 elevators to transport the visitors
1 elevator to transport technical equipment
Steel stairway with 986 steps
Evacuation platforms at 188 meter and 191 meter heights
Observation deck at 203.78 meters
Restaurant at 207.53 meters
Height of the tower: 368.03 meters
Weight of the shaft: 26 000 tonnes
Weight of the sphere 4 800 tonnes