While the nature and speed of their transformation varies, urban landscapes undergo continuous change as spaces and artefacts are created, re-formulated or destroyed for practical as well as symbolic reasons. These transformations are guided by ideas about how the world should be, appear and respond to social, economic and political developments. Following Germany's reunification, Berlin's urban landscape was transformed by the need to accommodate different urban dynamics and understandings of the past and, following the subsequent move of the capital from Bonn, provide a representative landscape for the new Berlin Republic. This rekindled an old question: how should Germans build? This article argues that German architectural debate in a post-Cold War context is not only influenced by current developments in architecture and the need best to represent the liberal spirit of the new Germany, but is also strongly shaped by nineteenth-century German debates on identity and the strategies European social reformers devised to control taste in the wake of industrialisation and the mass production of design goods.