Tungsten Walls: Mr. Gorbachev, Turn Off This Wall!

Tungsten Walls: Mr. Gorbachev, Turn Off This Wall!

By Cooper Dahle


“If you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” These famous words were spoken by Ronald Reagan in 1987, in front of the Berlin Wall. This wall existed to separate the NATO controlled parts of the city from those occupied by the Soviets, and while the wall fell nearly 30 years ago, its shadow can still be seen today, not in the darkness, but in the light. It is called The Tungsten Wall.


Tungsten walls exist all over the world and refer to a stark social, economic, or cultural divide within a city or region. The name comes from a photo taken of Berlin at night from space. Though the photo was taken in 2013, well after the wall came down, its influence can still be seen. The western parts of Berlin are economically and socially much more well off than the East, and they use newer fluorescent bulbs that give off a white hue. East Berlin still uses older tungsten bulbs, which emit a yellow tint.


Tungsten walls can be seen all over the world today, with some notable examples being 8 Mile Road in Detroit, Rosevelt Street in Chicago, or even Meridian Street in Carmel. Not all walls are bad, for example, there is a Tungsten wall in New Orleans that surrounds the culturally rich French Quarter. What all Tungsten walls do have in common is the fact that there are no physical barriers to them. They can be marked with roads, street lights, houses, or parks, but they all serve as reminders that even though nothing physical may separate people, other factors influence us.


Perhaps the walls should remain in place, and perhaps some should be abolished, but as long as civilization itself has existed, so have these artificial boundaries. Maybe these walls will come down, maybe they will stay up, but one fact that is certain is that Tungsten walls have been a part of society since the very beginning.


(Pictured Above: Notice the white glow of the lights in the West, and the yellow to the East. That is the Tungsten Wall of Berlin.)


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