The reconstruction of Berlin s Prussian Stadtschloss, Humboldt Forum, was scheduled to begin this year but continues to suffer from scandals, mismanagement, a shortage of funds and above all, a total lack of historical perspective. With the recent announcement that it has been postponed until 2013, we take a look at the shortfalls in the masterplan.
Schlossplatz, one rainy Saturday afternoon in mid-October 2009: workers unfurl giant posters revealing computer-generated representations of the planned Berliner Schloss â€“ or Humboldt Forum, as it is officially called â€“ on a large scaffolding opposite the Lustgarten. At exactly the same time, a few hundred metres away, a small group of protesters set up a bouncy castle for their "Schloss mit lustig! Cancel the Castle" demonstration. The organiser Joel Alas hoped that the government would scrap the project and leave the vast open space as it is.
While the posters depicting the imposing new palace suggested construction would begin any day, this â‚¬550 million-plus project is far from a done deal and continues to be mired in financial and political controversy â€“ the result of a long and tedious process that began 20 years ago, with the collapse of the Berlin Wall. It all started in 1990, when the Palast der Republik - the huge, boxy, copper-coloured building built in the 1970s to house both the GDR parliament (Volkskammer) and various cultural venues â€“ became an object of wrath for a generation of German politicians with an axe to grind with former communist East Germany.
The Palast was erected on exactly the spot where the Berliner Schloss â€“ the Kaiserâ€™s city residence â€“ stood before it was bombed by the Allies in the war and finished off by East Germany, which was reluctant to rebuild a symbol of old Prussia in the centre of its capital. This patch of land at the heart of the reunified German capital was to become ground zero for an intense ideological debate over how German history should be approached, remembered and materialized.