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25.8.04

Pompidou Center in Berlin

Volkspalast, BerlinYou may remember my post on July 2, about the plans to open an extension of the Centre Pompidou, in Metz. Now, in an article (Le palais de la République reprend du service à Berlin, August 23) for Libération, Odile Benyahia-Kouider reports on a group of German artists who want to transform the Volkspalast, the seat of the Communist government in (formerly East) Berlin, into a "second Centre Pompidou." It's a fairly recent building (constructed in 1976) on the Spree River, which was the symbol of old East Germany. The federal government of the reunited Germany, in 2002, had decided to tear down the building, to reconstruct the Hohenzollern Palace (destroyed by the East German government in 1950). The group of artists, led by film directors Volker Schlöndorff and Frank Castorf, has taken over the building, which has been closed since 1990 when asbestos was detected inside:

Only in Berlin could one witness such a thing, a mixture of East German nostalgia buffs, hip young people, neocommunists, over 2,500 of them on Friday evening [August 20], to celebrate the reopening of the Volkspalast. Sigrun Zill, a native of Frankfurt/Oder, seemed disoriented in this ruin of concrete and twisted steel. "I remember the large staircase that led to the entrance hall," she recalls emotionally. "There were immense paintings on the walls, thousands of lamps. We used to call it 'Erich's lamp shop' (after Erich Honecker, First Secretary of the Communist Party). But I can't manage to find the restaurant where I was married in 1988." And for a good reason: only the palace's skeleton has survived.
Artist Marcella Gruß has some pictures of the Palast der Republik, and this is what it looked like in 1980. The group is hosting an exhibit of her works in the now-open Volkspalast, until September 11. Historische Mitte Berlin, Schlossplatz, Ideen und Entwürfe, 1991–2001 is a beautifully constructed site, in German only, with a history of the buildings that have stood in this part of Berlin, with lots of pictures. Der Spiegel also has some nice pictures. Heather Mathews at hem|mungen and Tom Schulz at Ostblog have covered this story and will continue to do so, I'm sure.

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