Mark Byrnes is a senior associate editor at CityLab who writes about design and architecture.
A quarter century after its removal, sections of the infamous concrete barrier have found new homes all over the world.
A quarter century after its removal, sections of the Berlin Wall dot museums, schools, and public squares from Los Angeles to Cape Town to Seoul: all pleasant resting places for a structure that once separated friends and family from each other during the Cold War, a barrier many risked their lives to cross.
With Sunday marking the 25th anniversary of the Wall's dismantling, there's plenty to say about one of the world's most famous barriers and the city it once divided. But perhaps most interesting now is what has become of the actual concrete that separated West from East Berlin.
While the last-standing section endured an emotional preservation battle last spring, much of the 96 mile-long barrier was dismantled by 1990, with sections sold and gifted by the State since.
Pieces of the Wall are still found in Berlin, whether in a storage yard, on permanent display at Potsdamer Platz, or for sale at tourist-heavy Checkpoint Charlie. But as for the large slabs that have found new homes abroad, the symbolism that comes with their placement varies: Five slabs that stand in Uijeongbu, South Korea (20 miles from the border with North Korea) send a hopeful message to a divided region. A single slab on display (and behind a rope) at the Reagan Ranch Center celebrates an oft-exaggerated political triumph. A section on display inside a Hilton in Dallas says who knows what.
There's an almost superficial element to which pieces of the wall have historically generated the most interest since 1989. As told by the Guardian's Philip Oltermann last week, the graffiti-covered sections are often the most valuable, with one company paying $185,000 for a slab shortly after the wall came down. Later in 1990, additional sections were put up for auction in Monaco. The less artistic remains, according to Oltermann, "were crushed and used for road and motorway construction."
No matter how ubiquitous the remains of the wall become around the world, the story behind it remains relevant. From Texas to the West Bank, there are still too many foreboding, sometimes deadly, barriers around the world today. And if they ever come down, collectors will be ready to claim a piece of history.