Potsdamer Platz ,before it was reduced to rubble during World War II — and later cut in half by the construction of the Berlin Wall — the square was a shining symbol for the metropolis. After the war, the square remained a no-man's-land until the reunification of East and West Germany. The demolition of the wall presented a compelling opportunity to revive the square with a totally new mix of uses, and the area around the square became the largest building site in Europe. The new federal government assigned the largest of four quadrants to a development team led by what is now the Daimler-Chrysler Group. Between 1993 and 1998, a completely new urban district arose around Potsdamer Platz — office buildings, apartments, shops, and cultural institutions —characterized by striking modern architecture and civic planning concepts. At the southwest corner of this new district is Potsdamer Platz Arkaden, a three-level, 40,000-square-meter (430,556 sf) retail center.
Opened in 1998, the three-storey shopping mall with its glass roof dazzles with modern architecture is designed by the brilliant architect Renzo Piano. In 140 shops on three floors, Berlin citizens and visitors find an extensive selection here from all over the world. The restaurants and bars in the shopping arcade are ideal for short or longer breaks during a visit to Potsdamer Platz: from a good square meal through to a relaxing cappuccino in between. The underground car park with around 2,500 spaces is ideal for anyone coming to Potsdamer Platz by car. Nearby entertainment options include the Cinemaxx complex, the musical theatre and a casino.
A new tram station was built to allow direct access to the city's tram system from the basement of the Arkaden, and a direct link to a planned regional railway station will be added in the future.
Italian architect Renzo Piano's design guidelines produced a transparent complex of glass, brick, ceramics, and terra-cotta. A 16-meter-high (53 ft) glazed space-framed roof spans the 180-meter-long (591 ft) shopping boulevard, which follows the square's original street pattern and is open to the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This covered boulevard runs from north to south, ensuring access to natural daylight, which is softened in the southern section by glass surfaces covered with graphic prints. A double row of trees set in planting beds within the Arkaden also reinforces the avenue atmosphere.