Monday, October 04, 2004

Battle for the Weisshaus

Officials in Berlin had planned to rebuild the Hohenzollern palace in Berlin in order to make it into create a symbolic home for the German chancellor, something like a German White House (or some other use). The palace was in East Berlin, and the communist regime took it down and replaced it with a more modern building, the Palace of the Republic. In their zeal to restore old buildings, Berliners believed that the Hohenzollern palace would be looked upon as a national symbol. This was a stupid idea--in my opinion the Hohenzollern palace was not symbolic of anything during the Kaiserreich. It was no lieu de memoire (site of memory).

To my satisfaction, the project is dead. On the one hand, the German economy will not allow for the expensive restoration. On the other, no one seems to be acting on it, and Berliners might be satisfied with the status quo. Trust me. Berlin does not need another overbearing work of architectural historicism.
There is not going to be a rebuilt Berlin palace. Merely uttering these words seems to significantly increase doubts that the royal palace will indeed ever be rebuilt. Blame for this cannot go to Germany's financial situation alone. The enthusiasm which flared up three years ago when the Bundestag decided to recreate the Hohenzollern palace in central Berlin was long extinguished before the financial crisis enforced a two-year delay.

... it seems there is no yearning for the building to be brought back to the Schlossplatz, the palace square, aesthetically important for the city as it is.

Supporters of the project hoped the palace would become a symbol for the city, similar to Dresden's Frauenkirche church. But the royal palace doesn't seem to contain the sort of symbolism that Dresden's church embodies.

Ironically, the shell of the Palace of the Republic, on the other hand, has captured the imagination of Germans. Over past months it has become a popular location for exhibitions, theater and other cultural events despite its current skeletal state. “Volkspalast,“ or People's Palace, read the new letters on the shabby facade. The reopening of the space for cultural events attracted not just Berlin's art nomads, but also a number of older guests who can remember what the building looked like in its heyday in GDR times.

And while the demolition of the Palace of the Republic is scheduled for next spring, the artists who now occupy the space hope the demolition will be delayed until reconstruction starts on the royal palace - and that might take a while.

[Aside: I never thought a piece of crap like the Palace of the Republic would be valued.]


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