All just a facade (3)


Since I mentioned aNC arquitectos‘ alternative proposal to retain and alter the Palast der Republik, (too late now, as it’s gone, of course) they’ve sent me some images, which it would be rude not to show you:

The image below makes an analogy between the evolution of the Schloss, with a possible evolution of the GDR’s Palast der Republik, from its 1970s original construction, through the erecting of a section of temporary ‘Schloss facade’ in 1993, onwards.

As I’ve said before, I think a process of gradually evolving an existing building using interim spaces and temporary structures would have been far more in keeping with the spirit of Berlin than another big, fixed museum, but there you are.  The city authorities were reported to have liked the idea, but sadly didn’t take it to be a serious proposal. Some alternative use layouts for the ‘arena’ extension, showing plan, with section at the bottom:

On sort of a linked theme, it’s worth also mentioning that before the Palast der Republik was demolished, it stood ‘naked’ for a while, stripped of its cladding and asbestos.  During which time, some people called raumlabor berlin did this.

All just a facade (2)


After my recent rant about the planned construction of the Humboldt Forum – a new cultural building which will be disguised to look like Berlin’s lost baroque palace, I suppose I’d better do a follow up.

By the way, if you don’t live here, and know little of Berlin, I should point out that this is a major public issue and ongoing news story, not just a hobby horse of my own; much better writing on the subject can be found.  But it’s mainly in german, so ha. 

Late last week, the results were announced of the architectural competition to design the rest of the building, i.e. the bits that are not fake baroque.  It was won by an Italian architect, Francesco Stella.  He came first; slightly confusingly, there were four joint holders of third prize, with no second prize.  (I would have thought that the next best four, if all equal in the eyes of the jury, would hold either joint second or, at a stretch, joint 5th.  No matter.)

The third prize was shared by three well known german practices (Hans Kollhoff, Kleihues + Kleihues, Christoph Mäckler – all much mentioned in this blog) and Verona practice Ricardo Campagnola Architetti.  From my superficial reading, the Kleihues + Kleihues looked the better bet.

In the confusing world of architecture competitions, there were also two ‘purchased designs’, which according to Baunetz went to Berlin pratices nps Tchoban Voss and Reimar Herbst (typically, the Schloss website is less clear about this).

There’s more images of the results at the still-as-terribly-designed-as-ever website for the Berliner Schloss.

It’s the feeling of many that however good the designs submitted, the competition is fundamentally flawed, as it requires that the new architecture is entirely subservient to recreating the footprint and facades of the ‘original’ baroque palace.  I put ‘original’ in inverted commas, because there was no original palace, in the sense that the building evolved over hundreds of years to reach the form that was finally demolished by the GDR after the war.

Taking this idea as a starting point, a while back a Portugese practice aNC arquitectos proposed a thoughtful scheme whereby the existing GDR Palast der Republik building would be gradually extended and adapted to new needs; a concept to my mind far more in keeping with the spirit of Berlin, being cheaper and grittier than the bland leisure complex that will almost certainly result from the current proposals. 

Unfortunately, I’m not able to find the images they showed at the Porto conference a few weeks ago.  Their website is a Flash affair, but if you search in it for ‘public projects’ you should find the text.

All just a facade?


First, an image of the new Temporäre Kunsthalle, which is, at the time of writing, literally just a facade. The building is essentially a box, the exterior a blank canvas, onto which a design by artist Gerwald Rockenschaub has been painted. The art inside won’t be ready until the end of October.

The simplicity of the design makes the photo look like a montage, although it’s real (I took some photos, but the press images were better, so I used one of those).

Of course what you can’t see in the image (well you can just make out the last bits of staircores) is the Palast der Republik, still being demolished, seemingly by one guy, who only works weekends.   Eventually, it will make way for a sort of replica of the baroque Stadtschloss (Berlin’s original royal palace), to be known as the Humboldt-Forum.

I say ’sort of’ replica, as the plan is to create a dog’s dinner involving the rebuilding of three of the four sides, plus an interior courtyard.  The elevation onto the Spree, and much of the interior, is to be in an unspecified ‘modern style’. Whatever that means.  The project’s website is here, and in keeping with the overall concept, is fantastically badly designed. Oddly, the same organisation publishes a very professional looking newspaper, which I think comes out monthly, and is lightyears better than the website.  I’ve discovered that Berlin is not a website sort of place (as you’ll know if you’re Googling for proper information but keep getting my site).

Essentially the building will be used to house collections from Berlin’s existing major museums.  An original plan to make it the home of the state library (ZLB) has apparently been reduced down to a token amount of floor space.

“The Humboldt Forum will be the Pompidou Centre of the 21st Century” claimed the head of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation recently.  This seems extremely unlikey, given that the design seems to be a failure of imagination in terms of what could be achieved, and also because, well, it will look like a great big baroque palace.

To quote the Berliner Zeitung:

“The idea of the Humboldt Forum on the Schlossplatz, this lively, modern, democratic combination of a central library, the museums of non-European cultures, and the university collection, is dead. Stone dead.

Why did this disaster occur? The idea of the Humboldt Forum fell victim to the wish to reconstruct the palace façade. The total area of land would actually have been sufficient to accommodate a museum, a library, a university collection, exhibition space, cinemas, cafés, and event space — but only if the building is not restricted to the cramped confines within the Baroque palace façade. If the façade is rebuilt, then only 50,000 square meters, out of the available 160,000-square-meter area (of Schlossplatz) is left over. And Berlin and the federal government want to build as quickly as possible … to prevent a new generation from discarding the palace façade idea.

Thanks to the palace façade and the rush to build, the ZLB – which has been promised an extension for over 20 years – will have to continue to wait until the politicians finally understand that a broad national education has something to do with the economic and cultural success of a country.”

Oh well.

(Image is one I took at the press launch for the Temporary Kunsthalle construction, back in June. Palast der Republik in the background. More images, including the Mayor looking very smooth, here.)