Visitors might be amazed by the amount of building work surrounding the Baroque silhouette of Berlin City palace. Like a phoenix, the impressive palace is rising again, after vanishing from the cityscape for half a century. The extraordinary saga of the reconstruction reflects the tumultuous history of the German capital.
The campaign to rebuild Berlin’s most iconic monument – it’s royal palace – had been gathering momentum for years, amid much public debate. Founded in 1443 as the residence and fortress for the Hohenzollern Dynasty, it was designed in Baroque style by the architect Andreas Schlüter in 1698. The finishing touches to the palace’s impressive facades were made in 1845, with the construction of the Neosander Portal, a majestic entrance gate with a vaulted dome overlooking Berlin’s main avenue, Unter Den Linden.
The home of Prussian Kings and then the Emperor, the palace was transformed into a museum in the 1920s. But in February 1945, the palace was engulfed in flames following heavy wartime bombing of the city centre. Despite the extensive damage, subsequent years saw it being used to house art exhibitions.
While experts believed that the palace could be restored to its former splendour, the new Communist authorities in East Germany had another plan. Considering it a symbol of Hohenzollern imperialism, they demolished it in 1950 to make way for a large empty space used for political parades. Only one gate survived and was preserved and absorbed into the nearby State Council of the GDR, which is today a private school of economics.
In the 1970s, the East German government built a modernist structure, the Palace of the Republic. It stood there for 25 years until the unified German government decided to rebuild the palace, despite controversy about the €600 million bill. Work began in 2012, and this year marks the end of a massive reconstruction project, creating a new gem in Berlin’s historic centre. Originally due to open in September, the inauguration has been delayed by a year. However, surrounding gardens provide multiple possibilities for taking pictures while visitors can admire the talent of German craftsmen who recreated its Baroque glory.
Next year, the ground floor and first floor will be opened welcoming exhibitions of Berlin City Museum, shops, restaurants and coffee shops as well as meeting rooms. And in 2021, it will become home to the Ethnology and Asian Arts Museum.