Here at Ionarts, we covered this story back in the summer of 2004 (Pompidou Center in Berlin, August 25, 2004). A group of German artists 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, took over the building, in an attempt to stop the government's plans to demolish it. They have been hosting a series of exhibitions in this retro-hip space. I had not given the story much thought since then, but then I read an article (Berlin's Indoor Mountain of Art and Protest, August 25) by Geeta Dayal for the New York Times, about the latest of those exhibits, a piece called Der Berg (The Mountain):
Days before the end of a mammoth protest exhibition, government officials on Wednesday unveiled the results of a feasibility study to raze the crumbling old East German parliament building and make way for a replica of a Prussian castle that would house a five-star hotel and big museum collection. The exterior of the old East German parliament building on Unter den Linden that is to be demolished to make way for a re-creation of a palace. The German culture minister, Christina Weiss, said the government hoped to start construction by 2007 on the new building, which the study says could cost $650 million to $950 million.We like to give some background to stories in the Times when we can.
In recent months, proponents have sought to cast the proposed castle, an imitation of one that once stood on the site on the famed Unter den Linden, as an architectural and cultural counterpart to the Louvre in Paris. "Here is one of the world's most famous historic ensembles in the center of Berlin, with the university and the opera house and the cathedral," Wilhelm von Boddien, head of the group lobbying to rebuild the old castle, said in an interview on Monday. "The Palace of the Republic is disturbing the ensemble," he said of the old building, a boxy orange-hued 1972 structure that stands out amid the gray and grandiose neo-Classical architecture lining the boulevard. But a very vocal group begs to differ. Arguing that the building should be preserved as a reminder of postwar history, about 160 artists and architects from around the world banded together this month to create a mountain inside the Palace of the Republic.