One of the great things about Berlin is that it is a city in the making. When something big is being built, a provisional building serves as a temporary museum, viewing platform and teaser for the real thing that will be there in the future. Now we have the hugely unusual, if not slightly ugly Humboldt-Box.
Prussian kings and German kaisers dominated the heart of Berlin from the 15th to 20th century. The Berliner Schloss, the Berlin palace was their residence. Now the people of Berlin will have a Schloss of their own. The castle of the people will be known as the Humboldt Forum and will be rebuilt as a replica of the former Baroque building.
This modern contraption is an antipode to the elegance of what is to be built. However, it serves as a place to experience the construction of the building and it gives an idea of what the Humboldt Forum Foundation has planed.
When built in the years 1700 by architect Andreas Schlüter it became the most important Baroque building in Germany. Following the revolution and abdication of the Kaiser in 1918, the Berliner Schloss was used in many different ways, including a museum, which is what the Humboldt Forum will become amongst other uses as well.
The palace was hit during WWII. But not beyond repair – it was the ideology of the socialist regime of the GDR which decided to demolish the palace in 1950. What the communist party saw as a remembrance of a feudal system was finally destroyed with the help of dynamite. For years the empty space was a parading ground for the party. In 1976 the Palast der Republik, the Palace of the Republic was built and served as the GDR’s administrative center and assembly chamber. After unification that had to go too, because by the 1990s asbestos was considered bad for humans. History or asbestos, the marvelous Schloss was avenged. Since 2008 the heart of Berlin has been empty. Every summer the large lawn is a big attraction for Berliners. It is the second year some mysterious dreamer created a humongous heart on it. And the first summer an artist placed blue sheep on it…
A private initiative, the Friends of Berlin Palace, which was born in 1993 would not leave a stone unturned until it convinced Berliners of rebuilding the Schloss. Italian architect Franco Stella won the competition. With the rebuilding of the Berliner Schloss the spatial structure, views and relative proportions of the city of Berlin will be regained. An animation of the future result shows how it all fits together:
The name says it all: The Humboldt Forum, which is named after the famous German brothers Alexander and Wilhelm von Humboldt, will bring together culture and science and function as a place of knowledge. The concept seeks to juxtapose the Museum’s Island various European art collections with a non-European counterpart consisting of Berlin’s prominent East Asian, Indian, African, Central American and Oceania collections, which currently live hidden from the public eyes in fast depots.
The rebuilding of the palace is to commence in the immediate future. One problem persists: 63 million Euros are still missing. If you go to the Humboldt Box there is a vending machine, which does not sell you anything, but will take your donation and print you a receipt for the tax man!