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Germany's Royal Palace Rebuilding Boom

16974 Views 16 Replies 9 Participants Last post by  hkskyline
Germany rebuilds palaces long destroyed by war

BRAUNSCHWEIG, Germany, May 4, 2008 (AFP) - A new building boom is sweeping Germany -- royal palaces destroyed during or after World War II that are set to rise again.

Planning is underway to rebuild long-destroyed palaces in Berlin, Hanover and Potsdam; a former royal hunting lodge in the west could also rise again soon; a palace in Dresden is nearing completion and last year, the exterior of a Braunschweig palace was completed.

After World War II, many German cities rebuilt damaged and destroyed palaces and historic buildings. But urban planners in both East and West Germany also demolished many ruined buildings on ideological and aesthetic grounds.

This latest wave of reconstruction stems directly from the demise of former communist East Germany in 1990 and the successful reconstruction of Dresden, according to Gabi Dolf-Bonekaemper, a professor at Berlin's Technical University.

"The idea that it is feasible, that it can be done, that money can found and what comes out of it is not ugly, and it's not a fake, it's something different," Dolf-Bonekaemper said.

Others connect the campaign to rebuild long-destroyed palaces to a cultural identity crisis afflicting Germany and a rebellion against high-concept modern architecture.

"It's linked to anxiety about globalisation," Peter Schabe of the German Foundation for Historic Preservation told AFP, "People want a place to identify with and they want to create cities that looked like they did long ago."

The 18th century palace in Braunschweig was heavily damaged in World War II and demolished in 1960. Last year, it was resurrected as a 200 million euro (310 million dollar) shopping centre by property developers ECE.

Visitors who enter the palace might expect to see an elaborate ceremonial hallway or other signs of the building's noble past. Instead, immediately inside sits a Starbucks coffee shop.

The centre's interior is completely modern in stark contrast to the historic facade.

But the fusion of modern commerce with royal pomp has been a success, with over nine million visitors in the mall's first year, centre manager Jan Tangerding said.

"Of course there are critical voices who say, 'look, there's a big block stuck behind [the facade] that's a shopping centre,' but they're relatively few and getting quieter," Tangerding said.

The question of how to use a rebuilt palace hangs over every project.

Hanover's Herrenhausen Palace will serve as a "future-oriented convention centre" for the Volkswagen Foundation, which announced plans last year to rebuild the palace's facade to how it was before being destroyed in 1943.

In Potsdam, the capital of the state of Brandenburg, real estate developers approached the city and offered to rebuild the destroyed City Palace, one of many belonging to the Prussian royal family, as a shopping mall.

The city rejected that offer and philanthropist Hasso Plattner, a co-founder of the software firm, SAP, donated 20 million euros (31 million dollars) to rebuild the palace's facade.

Last month, the Brandenburg state legislature approved the design and voted to move into the as-yet unbuilt palace by 2012.

Preservationists warn that building replicas of palaces can be misleading for those with no memory of the original building.

"Citizens see these [new] buildings as something that has been historically preserved, but they're not, they are new buildings" Schabe of the German Foundation for Historical Preservation said.

"When young people embrace a place that they've never seen before, that they don't know, then history has been 'adjusted' somewhat," Schabe said, "And for preservationists that's a big problem."

The debate over whether to rebuild Berlin's City Palace has raged ever since German reunification in 1990.

The original palace was heavily damaged during World War II. After the war, East German authorities demolished what was left and built their own modern palace - the Palace of the Republic.

That building also housed the East German parliament, several restaurants and a disco. After reunification, Berlin authorities soon had the Communist-era building condemned on the grounds of asbestos contamination.

The Palace of the Republic is currently being torn down and construction of a replica of the City Palace, which may house a cultural forum affiliated with nearby Humboldt University, is due to begin in 2010.

Spiralling cost estimates for the new palace have slowed the project, but the federal government has promised to pay a major portion of the costs, currently approaching nearly 500 million euros (779 million dollars).

The Technical University's Dolf-Bonekaemper warns that the desire to rebuild buildings destroyed over 60 years ago may make it harder to preserve scores of smaller, authentic historic buildings outside of major cities.

"We see the money going elsewhere and it's sometimes impossible to attract investors to real monuments," she said.

"Germany is full of castles that are sold for one euro because no one would want to invest one cent into them because they are badly situated."
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Visitors who enter the palace might expect to see an elaborate ceremonial hallway or other signs of the building's noble past. Instead, immediately inside sits a Starbucks coffee shop.
Like a trip to the mall.
Sounds like Starbucks in the Forbidden City ... believe it closed down recently.
Excellent news. I love seeing old buildings reconstructed.
How long will it take to rebuild the Palaces in Potsdam & Berlin and will the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial outside of the Berliner Schloss also be rebuilt? Also, how accurate will these facades be?
I've seen old renderings. A bit yellowish looking but no precast included:)
A couple of pictures of the reconstructed & shoppingcenterized Braunschweiger Residenzschloss

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I'm usually not one for the commercialization of History or Landmarks, however even I must admit that I'm impressed with this! Good job!!!
this is amazing I'd like to see more.Any pictures?
I'm usually not one for the commercialization of History or Landmarks, however even I must admit that I'm impressed with this! Good job!!!
Whatever it takes to get them rebuilt IMO.
Those people are doing a very good Job. If the funds are from private investors, even if they are going to comercialize those historic buldings, its better than neglect them.
Germany has a very large impresive architectural examples to be preserved.
Those people are doing a very good Job. If the funds are from private investors, even if they are going to comercialize those historic buldings, its better than neglect them.
Germany has a very large impresive architectural examples to be preserved.

I agree with you, however, these are NEW buildings, not old ones that are or were neglected. I'm ALL for saving actual Historic Buildings!
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Germany grapples with future of aging architectural treasures
7 September 2010
Deutsche Welle

Tourists flock to Germany, in part for its old architecture. But as the buildings age, Germany continues to be faced with a difficult question: rebuild them just as they were, or put something new in their place.

For Wilhelm von Boddien, grappling with the issue of reconstruction is part of a day's work. He is the manager of the association for the rebuilding of the historic Berlin City Palace, which was largely destroyed by Allied bombing in World War II and completely demolished in 1950 by East German authorities.

Von Boddien's stance has made him a target for the project's many opponents, who believe it is too expensive and too unnecessarily fixated on the past. Although the German parliament decided in favor of the reconstruction in 2007, work on the palace has been delayed until 2014 due to budget cuts, sparking even more debate about the merit of such a project.

For von Boddien, the value of the project is clear. "What do people look at when they're on vacation and sightseeing in cities? They first go to see the historic areas and not some soulless modern constructions," he said.

Berlin's Museum Island, where the City Palace is located, is historically significant in itself. It is home to the Old Museum, completed in 1828, the Old National Gallery, opened in 1876, and the Berlin Cathedral from the turn of the 20th century. But according to von Boddien, this cannot compensate for the absence of the City Palace.

"The palace may not be everything, but without it, everything is nothing," explained von Boddien, pointing to what he sees as a void in the island's historical composition.

Emotional decisions

Ursula Schirmer from the German Foundation for Monument Protection has some doubts. In her opinion, a reconstructed palace is basically a new building that is financed by public money. She said that when it comes to allocating money, some older buildings needing restoration not stand a chance against the City Palace, simply because they are not spectacular enough.

Schirmer is not sure whether the highly controversial demolition of the Palace of the Republic - which was built under the East German regime on the site of the former Berlin City Palace - was the right decision, as it was a "political" one.

"From the perspective of monument protection, this is a questionable matter - we're still too close to it emotionally," said Schirmer. "It takes a few generations before an objective decision can be made. But such a time frame is simply not considered in the case of some buildings."

Carl Zillich from Bundesstiftung Baukultur - an organization that monitors the relationship between construction in public space and quality of life - said that "every era should leave behind its own impressive architecture and not foster an architectural still-stand."

However, there does not seem to be a consensus on the side of the investors. "Money for the reconstruction of historic buildings can be obtained far more easily than for well-designed new projects," commented Zillich.

Overcoming traumas

According to Zillich, most reconstructions and restorations in Germany were decided on "in the heat of the moment" and were meant to help overcome the trauma of the destruction suffered during World War II. One prominent example is Dresden's Church of Our Lady, although in contrast to the Berlin City Place it was reconstructed using original remaining materials.

Wilhelm von Boddien, however, cannot understand all the hype surrounding the issue of authenticity. Reconstructions have been carried out many times over the ages, he says, and no one is really interested in the fact that the bell tower of St Mark's Basilica in Venice is a reconstruction of the original.

"Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, six million square meters have been allocated to Berlin's modern constructions," said von Boddien. "Why is it such a problem now if we take up just 150 thousand square meters to erect something that matches this historic location?"

Brain power and creativity

The vice-chairman of the association planning to reconstruct the Potsdam City Palace, Hans-Joachim Kuke, holds a similar view.

"Reconstructions are legitimate buildings projects and have always been a significant need for many peoples and nations," said Kuke. "After all, communities are not prepared to give up buildings that are important to their identities."

Kuke believes that reconstructing a building's facade according to the original, but redoing the inside, is also a legitimate approach. "A facade is incredibly important," argued Kuke, adding that most people probably would not want to use an old-fashioned toilet that was reconstructed according to the original design.

"A reconstruction is a highly artistic project - I don't understand why it's often dismissed like this. You need a lot of brain power and creativity to integrate modern features, such as insulation, into a historic reconstruction."

The City Palace has yet to be rebuilt, but with its many historical buildings, Germany will have plenty of other opportunities to choose between new and redone.

The exhibition "The History of Reconstruction; the Construction of History" at the Pinakothek in Munich currently examines societies' decisions to rebuild valuable buildings which had been damaged by time or war. Click through the picture gallery below for some examples.
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