Monday, 24 June 2013

Berlin developments

If you are a reader of this blog you will know that for the last 15 years I have been following developments in Berlin in regards to the re-building of significant 18th century buildings in the City centre and in surrounding areas including the old Royal Capital of Potsdam.

For the last 20 years the Government of the City of Berlin and the Federal Government of Germany and the Land of Brandenburg have invested phenomenal amounts of money into making of Berlin once again a great European Capital as it was prior to 1933 when the Nazi dictatorship took over Germany which led to so much destruction and death.

The vision of the German authorities as been to return Berlin to its status as a City of Enlightenment as it was under Frederick II of Prussia and under the numerous philosophers, musicians and artists which made Germany famous.

All the great museums of the Museum Island in central Berlin have now been rebuilt and refurbished, so too the Lutheran Cathedral. The great avenue Unter den Linden is once again lined with double rows of Linden trees from the Brandenburg Gate to the Palace Bridge and the various historical buildings lining this famous avenue have also been restored.

A group of German Citizens got together and proposed that the City Palace be rebuilt so to complete the architectural ensemble of the German Capital. The Palace was the Berlin Residence of the Hohenzollern Dynasty who ruled Brandenburg, then Prussia as of 1701 and the German Empire from 1870. The entire life cycle of Berlin for the last 800 + years have been marked by this one reigning family.

The Palace was heavily bombed and caught fire in the last days of the Second World War, though damaged the Palace could have been salvaged but in 1950 the Communist rulers of what had become the Eastern sector of Berlin decided to blow up and demolish what was left. Instead they built in 1974 a People's Palace in the traditional brutal architectural style of the Communist era. With the reunification of the city after 1989 and the fall of the Berlin Wall and Communist regime, Berlin became once again the Capital of a United Germany. The German Parliament moved from Bonn to Berlin and re-occupied the re-built Reichstag. The British Architect Norman Foster preserved the old walls of the building but designed an entirely modern structure inside, using glass for walls and the great dome. He explained that the transparency of glass would be the symbol of the return of democracy.

Now after years of debate and fund raising by citizens the old Imperial City Palace of the Hohenzollern is being re-built on the scale it once occupied, the outside walls will be exactly as they were before the war, however the inside will now be dedicated to learning. For this reason it will be called the Humboldt Forum, after Wilhelm and Alexander Von Humboldt who were friends with Schiller and Goethe. The Palace re-building program is financed by private funds and supplemented by the Senate of Berlin and the Federal Government of Germany. Total cost of rebuilding the Palace $780 million dollars, completion date 2018.

Here are some pictures of the construction activities and area.

 Cathedral of Berlin at night across the street from the construction site

Humboldt Box interpretation centre on the reconstruction project

 Part of the site under construction
From the café terrace of the Humboldt Box view of another part of this reconstruction project.

 What it will look like once re-built, front facade.

Side cut view of the whole building, this entire project was conceived by an Italian architect.


  1. Berlin is still the most fascinating palimpsest city in the world. 90 per cent of its architecture was never beautiful, but many buildings have so much symbolic significance that they need to be rebuilt - and then the significance will change.

    I was astonished to read that after the war there was a plan to abandon the ruined city altogether and build a new one 60km away. And if the allies had dropped poison on Berlin, as proposed, then we might now be visiting, with suitable precautions, a dead zone where only the buildings were half standing.

    1. I am happy to see that calmer minds prevailed and poison was not used. The spirit in which these buildings are now rebuilt sends a different message about Germany and shows that people can change through traumatic events.