THE fast palace


The only continuity we can experience today is that of change. Metaphorically speaking, what was valid yesterday might not be tomorrow. The city of Berlin is one of the best places in the world right now to witness exactly this kind of development. A permanent influx of people from all continents changes the fabric of the city year after year. In a way Berlin has become more international than most of its inhabitants or representatives are ready to acknowledge. With little resources already in place, Berlin thrives on new talent, new entrepreneurship and new capital flowing into the city. This represents the best chance Berlin has to prepare itself to become the Metropolis everybody worldwide expects it to be.

It has been proposed to reserve the former Schlossplatz in Berlin to become the so called Humboldt Forum. The idea that is shaping up behind this name describes an effort to open Germany culturally to foster a global cultural development. Elements of this institution will be the so-called agora alongside the collections of non-western art and artifacts of Staatliche Museen Berlin and in conjunction with Humboldt University, as well as the Zentral- und Landesbibliothek Berlin. The effort is to prepare for a future notion of a global culture.

Seen under this light the decision to rebuild the historical façade of the old Hohenzollern castle at the heart of Berlin becomes somewhat questionable. Between folkloristic and restorative tendencies a fake historic façade appears to be the wrong political gesture for Berlin. It does not communicate the openness required of such a space in the center of Berlin and is at best a postmodern gesture that does not embrace the past, nor the future.

Humboldt Forum is a place where Germany will again display one of its best cultural traits: Weltoffenheit - openeness to the world - as it has been decribed by e.g. Thomas Mann as an ability to open up to the other and be changed by the encounter. "Weltoffenheit" therefore can count for a cultural strength of Germany to open up and be willing to integrate other cultures. And as such Humboldt Forum is appropriately named after the brothers Alexander and Wilhelm von Humboldt, for they represent Germany's history as a nation of culture and science. What in fact will be the task at the Humboldt Forum is to go to the current limits of cultures and science in order surmount and re-define them.

We firmly believe that such a tremendous cultural effort not only deserves, it requires a different kind of architectural gesture. What is needed is a visual marker that communicates continued effort and and openness to change. It calls for an architecture that represents the dynamic growth of knowledge and distribution. What is necessary is an architecture that goes against the limits. What it takes is liminal architecture.


web resources:

Michael Kimmelman, "Rebuilding a Palace May Become a Grand Blunder", NY Times, Dec 31, 2008


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