2001 – Present
Alex Ramirez and Maggie Huang
Architecture has been called upon many times as a remedy and testament to past conflicts, whether they are physical, social, or economical. The question this essay poses is to what degree can Architecture actually solve conflicts? One case in particular where memorial architecture is not only failing to resolve conflict but worsening it, is the reconstruction of the Stadtschloss Palace in the heart of Berlin, Germany. Before we delve into the reasons for its reconstruction, the recent history of Germany and its relation to the palace must first be understood. Following the end of World War II, the political infrastructure, not to mention the whole countryside of Germany, was left in ruins. While the German citizens tried to pick up the pieces and start anew, two major political parties emerged from the wreckage; the Socialist Unity Party, and the Free Democratic Party. In 1945, differing views and continued strife between the two parties resulted in the division of the country into East and West Germany. It wasn’t until 1990 that differences were settled and Germany was once again reunited.
Stuck in the middle of all this discord, was the site of the Stadtschloss. The palace was severely damaged in the bombings during WWII and knocked down in the 1950s. The GDR of East Germany then replaced it with a Parliament building which, in turn was demolished in the 1970s due to protest. The site has since been left untouched while the surrounding context has been slowly and successfully urbanized. Government and public alike have been hesitant and cautious in deciding the fate of the empty site due to its tumultuous and symbolic history. According to Suzanne Ledanff in “The Palace of the Republic vs. the Stadtschloss: The Dilemmas of Planning in the Heart of Berlin,” the “Berlin Republic wished a final statement and an architectural solution for the unfinished business [the tensions and uneasiness surrounding the forging of a shared national identity] in the heart of Berlin” – meaning that this new building is meant to symbolize the unification of Germany.
After much competition and debate, Prof. Franco Stella was chosen as the architect to head the design process. In 2002, the design was finalized and released to the public who received it with less than open arms. Stella intends to construct the 3 exterior facades as exact replicas of the facades on the original palace. This however, requires old-fashioned forms of construction which will rack up the cost of the project tremendously. The Interior, on the other hand will be rebuilt using modern techniques so as to accommodate its new purpose as a museum. Since the start of construction, and all through its continuation the German citizens are stuck in furious debate. Unfortunately, the two opposing arguments are made up of primarily West and East Germans, pitting the two sides against each other once again. Crucial questions include the financing, the definition of uses, and the aesthetic weaknesses of the overall design.
The current state of the German public over the Reconstruction of the Stadtschloss Palace clearly illustrates the importance of memorial architecture. The thought begs a study of its contemporary dilemmas and raises questions about its remediation capabilities. To what extent can architecture bring together different social factions and resolve conflict? In the case of the Stadtschloss Palace in Germany, the reconstruction seems to be reopening old wounds. This is not the first time this has happened in the history of Memorial Architecture. In 2003, a statue of Arthur Ashe was erected on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia. Arthur Ashe was an African American tennis player who became the first black man to win the United States Open (1968), the Australian Open (1970) and Wimbledon (1975). The monument was erected to celebrate his achievements as a humanitarian, scholar, and athlete. However, the placement of the statue sparked “one of Virginia’s most raucous debates on race since the State Legislature tried four decades ago to defy the Supreme Court decision holding school segregation unconstitutional.” There is a firestorm of opposition in which blacks believe the statue deserves a better location and whites believe it endangers the integrity of Monument Avenue. In addition, Memorial Architecture can go so far as to spark controversies that no one even knew was there. For example, in Croatia, a monument of a tie was erected that lead to a furious debate over what city was the correct birthplace of the men’s accessory. Locals in the Turopelje region versus locals in the town of Velika Gonca both make the same claim that the tie came about when the girls in their respective towns decorated soldiers for war. Bu the argument doesn’t stop there, there are also angered residents in the Croat Capital who don’t see the Zagreb necktie connection at all and question the monument’s very existence.
In Conclusion, Memorial Architecture can not only reopen conflicts that were resolved a long time ago but spark controversies that no one knew was there. Despite the original intention of celebration, memorials can have undesired side-effects that ultimately bring the disagreements of the past back into the present. No two people remember an event the same way which is why building a monument can be a touchy subject. The Stadtschloss Palace, the Arthur Ashe monument, and the Tie Statue are great examples of the problems architects face in the design of memorials today. Time, money, aesthetics, and function are not the only things that need to be reconciled. In the design of the Arthur Ashe statue it was racial issues, the tie statue was social conflict, and in the reconstruction of the Stadtschloss it was political issues.
Kimmelman, Michael. “Rebuilding a Palace May Become a Grand Blunder,” New York Times: Art and Design http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/01/arts/design/01abroad.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1& (accessed September 3, 2013).
The author of this source takes a position against the reconstruction of the stadtschloss building and highlights the major reasons why it shouldn’t be built. He states that not many “Berliners” would support the decision to perform the reconstruction. New supporters are generally west Germans because they were not pleased with the tearing down of the old stadtschloss building.
Vitruvio. “Berlin – Stadtschloss Reconstruction — Urbanfile Network.” Urbanfile Network — Sharing Architectural Knowledge. http://www.urbanfile.org/blog/2012/10/berlin-stadtschloss-reconstruction (accessed September 9, 2013).
This article is an overview of the design and architectural concepts behind the new Stadtschloss building. The architect in charge of the reconstruction, Prof. Franco Stella, intends to construct the 3 exterior facades as exact replica’s of the facades on the original palace. This however, requires old-fashioned forms of construction which will rack up the cost of the project tremendously. The interior, on the other hand will be rebuilt using modern techniques so as to accommodate it’s new purpose as a museum.
“Germany.” (2013). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/231186/Germany
This source has a detailed explanation of the history of Germany. It outlines WWI, WWII, the country’s division into East and West Germany, and it’s eventual reunification in 1990.
“Shtadtschloss, Berlin,” last modified on Aug. 30th 2013, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stadtschloss,_Berlin>
This source explains the history leading up to the decision to reconstruct the stadtschloss. It also provides information as to what the interior and exterior facades of the building will look like.
“The Palace of the Republic vs. the Stadtschloss, the Dilemas of Planning in the Heart of Berlin.” German Politics and Society. Vol. 21. <http://www.questia.com/library/1G1-119113038/the-palace-of-the-republic-versus-the-stadtschloss.>
This source starts by clarifying that the Parliamentarians, NOT the Bundestag were the ones who made the main decisions regarding the Stadtschloss project. The author then goes on to explain how touchy and controversial the reconstruction is due to it’s historical and political significance. It is said that ” a seemingly consolidated and self-confident Berlin Republic wished a final statement and an architectural solution for the unfinished business [ the tensions and the uneasiness surrounding the forging of a shared national identity in unified Germany] in the heart of Berlin.” — meaning that this new building is meant to symbolize the unification of Germany. This then leads into a conversation of how architecture can confront and remedy past conflicts. Also presents a case-study of contemporary dilemma’s of monument planning and memorial architecture.
Weizman, Ines . “Revolutionary Reenactment and the Urban Arms Race in Cold War Berlin.” Architecture’s Political Spectacles 59 (2009): 60-69. http://www.jstor.org/stable/41378372 (accessed September 9, 2013).
The controversies between East and West Berlin have been going on for centuries, and they continue to go on with the reconstruction of the Stadtschloss. This article traces the conflicts between the two parties in addition to how the cold war affected the architecture of Berlin.
Taylor, Robert R. . “Hohenzollern Berlin: Construction and Reconstruction.”Journal of the society of Architectural Historians Vol. 47 (1988): 92-94. http://www.jstor.org/stable/990265 (accessed September 9, 2013).
The biggest concern with reconstruction in Berlin is losing their integrity, the Stadtschloss is a monument of the city and because of building’s historic and aesthetic importance, when it was damaged Berlin suffered from a tragic loss of their treasures.
This source shows the location of the former Stadtschloss Palace and the current construction zone. From this map one can see that the palace is located right in the center of Berlin, making the site symbolically important for the unification of Germany.
” Grundriss Stadtschloss” Wikipedia. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:GrundrissStadtschlossWI.GIF
This is a plan of the old Stadtschloss building that was torn down in the 1950’s.
Video and Audio
Peralta, Camila. “Berlin | Ruined Visions 2.001 – YouTube.” YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xsncBjEGPCQ&list=PL55CCFB2E58E1482B (accessed September 16, 2013).
This video explains the history of the German politics relating to the demolition of the buildings in Berlin after World War II. The destruction of all the buildings left Berlin in ruins. The war left Germany in very bad conditions which caused conflict between East and West Germany.
Peralta, Camila. “Berlin | Ruined Visions 2.007 – YouTube.” YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l3_agCCKA7o&list=PL55CCFB2E58E1482B (accessed September 16, 2013).
This video takes about the conflict of the reconstruction of the demolished Stadtschloss Palace. Some believe that it should be rebuilt as a monument of the country and as a historical asset. But many others also think that the reconstruction would just be a waste of time and money. This debate therefore has raised some disagreement between the Berliners once again.
Otternhagen, Rachel. “Das Berliner Schloss – Eine deutscher Geschichte (Doku) – YouTube.” YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ju6DSNLi_U (accessed September 16, 2013).
In this video we are able to generally see the overall idea of how they underwent design and construction of the building. It shows the process of the architectural changes.Reconstruction of the Stadtschloss