On this day 50 years ago, the Mercedes star on the roof of Berlin's Europa-Center was officially brought into service. Since then, the symbol of the brand is a permanent sight in the city's skyline.

50 years of the Mercedes star in Berlin.

The rotating Mercedes star on the Europa-Center celebrates its 50-year anniversary.

Text: Rainer Brenner

A piece of urban history.

On clear and cloudy nights alike: for the last 50 years, the Mercedes star on the roof of the Europa-Center has shed its light on the city. On sunny days, the star can be seen from as far away as Potsdam and one can only imagine just how much of the city’s rich and movemented history the rotating colossus has witnessed. In the middle of today’s City West, the building and the star on its roof have long been iconic of West Berlin. After the fall of the wall, thousands of East Berliners streamed into the shopping centre which the building houses.

The illuminated star has shared in half a century of Berlin's history.

And at the annual Loveparade shortly before the turn of the millennium, one and a half million people danced on the streets beneath the star.

From a literary café to a high-rise: the story behind the building of the Europa-Center.

High above it all.

The order to build the Europa-Center came at the beginning of the 1960s from the Berlin businessman Karl-Heinz Pepper. Where a Romanesque café once stood, a new high-rise building with an aluminium and glass façade was to be built right next to the new Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. In November 1963, the first brick was laid for the building complex. A year and a half later, the mayor of Berlin at the time, Willy Brandt, ceremoniously inaugurated the new-build. At 103 metres, the 22-story office tower was the tallest building in the city at the time. The adjoining shopping centre with 70 stores and attractions has registered over half a billion visitors since its doors opened for the first time. Today, the centre comprising 80,000 square metres of space is a listed building.

A record-worthy piece of equipment.

Since 1965, the illuminated Mercedes star has been rotating atop the roof of the main building. The ten-metre-high construction is positioned on a four-metre-high pedestal and is set in motion by a rotating drive system which ensures that all 3,000 kilogrammes of the logo rotate around its own axis almost twice a minute. All in all, the construction weighs in at 18 tonnes. The assembly is listed in the Guinness book of records as the “largest rotating and hydraulically tilting neon unit in the world”. Even the interior of the illuminated star is worthy of a record: a total of 681 neon tubes ensure that the star reliably illuminates the night sky.

681 tube lights and a gross weight of 18 tonnes – a truly impressive hydraulic system.

In 2007, the 41-year-old original star took its well-deserved retirement and the new star was airlifted into place in spectacular fashion by a helicopter.

The Mercedes star shines down on roofs, illuminates the ground below and even glistens in the water.

Firmly on the ground.

The Mercedes star on the roof of the Europa-Center might be the most well-known, but it’s not the only star of its type. Further stars are located in Stuttgart, Munich, Saarbrücken, Essen and a number of cities outside of Europe: and five years ago, a 10-metre-high star was brought into position on the roof of the Daimler Tower in northern Beijing, China. However, those who seek the biggest star will not find it at the scary heights atop a skyscraper, but rather firmly planted in the ground in the form of a star-shaped bridge with a diameter of 27 metres in Bad Ausee, Austria.

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