Sunday, March 16, 2014

Berliner Schloss -- wie doof!

Berlin is the birthplace of some of the most important "counter-monuments" (in the words of my friend and colleague James Young) in the world, inspiring artists around the world who confront their own nations' awful pasts, to challenge the way we should and could remember, in ways that does not aid forgetting, but may in fact support activist remembrance.  

And yet the biggest building project in Berlin, in the very heart of the reunified city, at the ceremonial and cultural center, is the building of the Berliner Schloss, the home to the Prussian kings.  Much destroyed in World War II, completely demolished in 1950 by the new German Democratic Republic as one of its earliest acts, replaced but the new country's capitol building, the Palast der Republik, the Schloss seems the ultimate phoenix, destined to rise again.  For decades now, perhaps since the moment it was demolished in 1950, many in power (fewer among the citizenry) have felt that the final reunification of Berlin would come not with the fall of "die Mauer" (the Wall) but with the rise, out of the multiple layers of ashes, of the Berliner Schloss.

I had thought someone would come to their senses.  

But despite shifting political parties and the rising and falling economy, the commitment was made not simply to build again on the site (they cleared away the Palast der Republik -- see a powerful film about the final removal of this important site in the history of the DDR by my American Academy colleague, Reynold Reynolds), but to rebuild the Schloss with "extreme authenticity" (sic).  One corner of the Schloss project was built several years ago, to indicate how glorious it will be to have this massive marble pile again.  And now the project is in full force.  It will be fa├žadism of course --  the Schloss on the outside, and some cultural institutions and -- of course -- shopping on the inside.

And hope for the reconstruction of another building nearby, Schinckel's Bauakademie, is bolstered by a full-scale trompe l'oeil.

And amidst all the governmental buildings, evidence is readily available that Berlin has finally caught the bug of creating luxury towers in the heart of their city.  

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