Short Architectural History

The Royal Palce of Berlin was founded in 1443 as the residence of the Hohenzollern-Dynasty. This dynasty was elected by the  Emperor of th Holy Roman Empire of German Nation as principals of the province of the Mark Brandenburg situated between the rivers Elbe and Oder. The Palace was in the first 200 years a fortress (“Zwing Cölln”) and later a palace in the style of the renaissance, situated at Berlin- Cölln in an edge-corner of the city, close to the bridge across the river Spree, controlling the main merchants-way from France to Poland. The twin-city Berlin and Cölln at first small cities of the Hanse, just “sleeping” small cities. But they got very soon a higher reputation by the political activities of the Hohenzollern’s.

Under the Great Elector Friedrich Wilhelm I. (1640-88) und the elector Friedrich III., who became in 1701 coronated King Friedrich I. in Prussia (1688-1713), the palace became the center of Berlin, as both founded new quarters of the city west to the Palace, the Friedrichstadt on Friedrichswerder and Dorotheenstadt, so called after the epouse of Friedrich I, Sophie Dorothea.

As follows, we would like to inform you about the history of the Palace of Berlin up to now.

1443, 31. 7th. to 1451

Founding and construction of the castle “Zwing Cölln” by Elector Friedrich II. (called the “Iron Tooth”) . The castle lay directly on the banks of the Spree River in the Cölln section of the twin cities of Berlin-Cölln. A portion of the Cölln city wall was integrated into its eastern side.

The castle lay directly on the banks of the Spree River in the Cölln section of the twin cities of Berlin-Cölln. A portion of the Cölln city wall was integrated into its eastern side.

From this vantage point, the ruling Hohenzollern family could control the trade route over the so-called “Long Bridge” which was still made of wood at that time. This practice led to the “Berlin Displeasure”, an uprising during which the inhabitants of Berlin strongly resisted the castle and flooded the construction site by opening the locks on the Spree. However, the matter was resolved. Berlin and the Hohenzollerns did not exactly love each other, but it was clear that each needed the other.

No pictorial evidence of the original building has been handed down to us. The “Green Hat” (please use the arrow to enlarge the picture), a copper clad former defensive tower of the Cölln city wall from the 13th century with an onion cupola, was the oldest visible part of the Palace. From the castle “Iron Tooth”, there existed only some cellar vaults and the Green Hat.


Construction of the Erasmus Chapel with its tower on the Spree façade in the east. Originally a high gothic church building, during the period when King Friedrich Wilhelm was Crown Prince around 1830, a mezzanine was installed. In the upper story, under the famous net vaulting, Schinkel outfitted the Prince’s private chambers.

During a subsequent fire, this mezzanine collapsed. Until the demolition of the Palace, one could still get an impression of the original proportions of the rooms.


The castle may have looked like this around the year 1500 – an attempt at reconstruction by Albert Geyer done about 1900

1535 – 1571

Elector Joachim II. He made Berlin the permanent residence of the Hohenzollerns. This was evidenced by the fact that he elevated the church of the Domincan Cloister, which lay south of the Palace, to become the Palace church and cathedral of Berlin. The court chief architects were Caspar Theiss and Kunz Buntschuh. The castle Iron Tooth was largely torn down. In its place, arose a splendid renaissance palace, the model for which can still be seen today in Torgau. The Palace became the center of the court and state government as well as the center of social life.

1571 – 1598

Elector Joachim II. He made Berlin the permanent residence of the Hohenzollerns. This was evidenced by the fact that he elevated the church of the Domincan Cloister, which lay south of the Palace, to become the Palace church and cathedral of Berlin. The court chief architects were Caspar Theiss and Kunz Buntschuh. The castle Iron Tooth was largely torn down. In its place, arose a splendid renaissance palace, the model for which can still be seen today in Torgau. The Palace became the center of the court and state government as well as the center of social life.

1608 – 1619

Elector Johann Sigismund. No noteworthy building activity took place on the Palace during his reign. However, the Hohenzollern dynasty embraced the reformed protestan faith. The Mark of Brandenburg remained evangelical/luthern. Freedom of religion was established in Brandenburg. “Here everyone can become blessed in his own confession.”

1640 – 1688

Elector Friedrich Wilhelm I, the Great Elector. The Palace, which had become rather dilapidated during the 30 years war, was thoroughly restored. Some of the most famous rooms stem from this time: the “Round and Bride’s chambers” and the “Brunswick Gallery”. They continued to exist until 1945. The Elector’s gallery, which connected the Duchess’s house with the pharmacy wing was built. The picture shows this edifice between the two tracts on the Spree.


Johann Moritz von Nassau-Siegen, governor for the Elector in Kleve, laid out a series of arteries with the Palace as their central point. One of them subsequently became the boulevard Unter den Linden which was connected to the Palace via the Hundebrücke, or Hounds Bridge. This bridge was used by the Elector whenever he rode out with the pack to hunt in the present day Tiergarten. There occurred a further expansion of the city to the west. The settlements of Dorotheenstadt and Friedrichswerder arose and later, under Friedrich III, the district of Friedrichstadt. In this way the Palace ceased to be on the margin of the city and became its core.

1688 – 1713

Elector Friedrich III, on and after 1701 King in Prussia. Under him the most extensive and most important renovations and enlargements of the Palace were undertaken. He brought the Mark of Brandenburg to financial ruin through his passion for splendor. However, this also resulted in having no money to engage in warfare. He preferred to dedicate his ambition to the pursuit of the fine arts and science. Thus, under his regency, the academies of science and the arts were founded by Leibnitz in Berlin. Charlottenburg Palace was built in Lietzenburg as a summer residence for the Elector’s wife Sophie Charlotte , a splendid princely court. (This picture shows the only authentic plan of the Palace’s façade by Schlüter fronting on the Palace plaza. Engraving by Decker, ca. 1704. All the original plans of the Palace disappeared no later than 1713 with the departure of Schlüter from Berlin.)


Andreas Schlüter, employed by Elector Friedrich III as court sculptor, created one of the most famous equestrian statues, namely that of the Great Elector. It is often mentioned in the same breath as those of Marcus Aurelius in Rome and Louis the 13th in Paris. In so doing, he took a great gamble by casting the unbelievably intricate and complex memorial all in one pouring of bronze. It shows the Elector in a typically baroque/feudal pose: He looks towards the Palace, but holds out his lowered scepter directed at the periodically rebellious city of Berlin, so as to show who holds the power here. Around the base of the monument are four slaves who writhe in their chains while simultaneously looking up in wonder at the Elector. They symbolize the Baltic Pomeranian cities conquered by the Swedes. The monument was taken down in 1943. It remained for a long time in a Spree barge which sank in the Tegeler Fliess. Consequently, it survived the war in good condition. Today it can be admired in the Court of Honor of Charlottenburg Palace.


The most important German baroque architect and sculptor, Andreas Schlüter, was chosen to be chief architect for the Palace in 1699. He converted the renaissance palace into the most splendid baroque residence in all of Germany. In 1701, the king, coming in a triumphal procession from the coronation city of Königsberg, moved into the new Palace. Its magnificent rebuilding was intended to elevate the new Prussian kingdom above all the other nobles of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. The model for the Palace was the Italian baroque: the window treatments are adapted from those of the Palazzo Madama in Rome; and many of the sculptures by Schlüter remind one in their power of expression of those by his idol Michelangelo.


The dismissal in disgrace of Schlüter after the Mint Tower catastrophe. Upon the order of the king, Schlüter built a 120 meter high clock tower on the northwest side of the Palace complex. Since at that time it was not possible to undertake deep test drilling, a large body of peat, lying 20 meters down in the flood plane of the Spree was not discovered. It was compressed by the weight of the tower, which tilted and threatened to collapse. It had to be torn down. The costs of the erection and demolition of the tower exceeded even the construction costs of the entire Palace. On this account, and because of the intrigues of his adversary at court, the Swedish military architect Johann Eosander von Göthe, Schlüter lost his post and, until his departure from Berlin for St. Petersburg, continued to work only as a sculptor.

He died one year later in St. Petersburg, not without having had a substantial influence on architectural planning there. Thus, for example, it is thought that the plans for the palace of Peterhof are attributable to plans by Schlüter.

The picture represents an attempted reconstruction by Goerd Peschkin from his Palace monograph (See more about this item in our Shop). It shows how immense the effect of the Mint Tower would have been on the panorama of the boulevard Unter den Linden.

1706 – 1713

Johann Eosander von Göthe becomes Palace chief architect. With a taste for monumentalism, he doubled the size of the Palace with an extension to the west. The central point of this enlargement was the Eosander gate, which was to be crowned by a 100 meter high dome. In addition, he intended to demolish the transverse wing of the Palace and connect the Schlüter courtyard to the Palace courtyard with a gigantic curving columned gallery. However, he was not able to complete his work because the king died in 1713. The king had left behind an almost bankrupt state. On account of Eosander’s extravagant waste of money in the arrangements for the state funeral for Friedrich I, the new king, Friedrich Wilhelm I, drove him from the court with curses in disgrace.


1713 – 1716

In spite of all his thriftiness, the King permitted the completion of the Palace, which still had a great gap yawning between the Eosander gate and the Schlüter courtyard. Nevertheless, he abandoned any sort of decoration in the interior. On the contrary, he caused many ceiling paintings to be painted over with white paint. An example is the ceiling of Eosander’s great picture gallery which by chance was rediscovered around 1850 and laid bare.

In the third year of Friedrich Wilhelm’s reign, the Palace was completed by Eosander’s successor, Martin Heinrich Böhme, a student of Schlüter’s. The baroque pleasure garden was transformed by the king into a dusty parade ground. He lived in rooms in the Eosander section of the Palace on the pleasure garden side. Because the windows there gave him too little light, he ruthlessly caused some of them to be enlarged and placed higher in the walls.

Again and again, under every king until the collapse of the empire in 1918, new splendid rooms were created and existing ones revised in the Palace interior by the most important architects and artists of Prussia. However, after Friedrich Wilhelm I, the exterior of the building remained untouched. Schinkel, who otherwise changed many edifices in Berlin, expressed his deep respect for the achievements of Schlüter by retaining his unique Facades and room arrangements.

1713 – 1740 

King Friedrich Wilhelm I, who because of his penchant for “Lange Kerls” (literally “tall fellows”) in his personal guard was called the Soldier King, although he never actually fought a single war. Above all, his task was to put the state finances back in order. He succeeded in doing this through the utmost parsimony and the introduction of governmental reforms which still today serve as a model. Tip: There is a thrilling book about the king’s life, “The Father” by Jochen Klepper. In it, the fascinating conflict with his son, the later King Friedrich II is presented.


Construction of the magnificent Polish Chambers in connection with a state visit by the King of Saxony, August the Strong. He was concurrently King of Poland, under the feudal authority of which the kingdom of Prussia stood at that time.

The picture shows the Roman Palazzo Madama, whose façade was the model for those of the Berlin Palace.

1740 – 1786

King Friedrich II, the Great. He moved the center of his activities from the Berlin Palace which he hated to Potsdam and the palace of Sanssouci.

Thereafter only the great winter soirees and the carnival balls took place in the Palace.

Nevertheless, the so-called Friedrich Rooms in the Palace were famous for their beauty, especially his round work study in the Palace Plaza wing. All of his studies were round in form in remembrance of his wonderful days in Rheinsberg, where, in a round tower, he possessed such a room for the first time.

The printing shop which he set up in the Palace Pharmacy for his books had the logical location “Au donjon Chateau” (in the tower of the Palace).

1786 – 1797

King Friedrich Wilhelm II. During his short reign he installed probably the most beautiful royal apartments in the Palace, the classical King’s Chambers in the pleasure garden wing, designed by the most prominent architects of the epoch, Erdmannsdorf, Gontard and Langhans (See also the “Interior Rooms”).

The king disliked the view down Unter den Linden west to the Tiergarten Park. It lacked a gate to the Palace. Accordingly, he gave Langhans the task of studying the Propylaen in Athens, interpreting its proportions, and constructing a great gateway with corresponding dimensions at the end of the boulevard. Thus arose the Brandenburg Gate, a free interpretation of the Propylaen. Originally it was painted white to give the impression of white marble. This is the cause of the latest debate regarding its renovation. Sandstone color or white?

Nasty tongues nowadays would have rejected the Gate as a mere copy of the original and vilified it as “Disneyland”. Instead, it became one of the most important architectural symbols of Berlin and indeed Germany. In earlier times, people were more generous – perhaps this is attributable to a better humanistic education?

1797 – 1840

King Friedrich Wilhelm III. This king did not make any magnificent architectural changes in the Palace. One hundred years had passed since the expansion by Schlüter and the building had decayed to the point where falling stones endangered pedestrians.

Therefore all moneys for the Palace went into renovation. The huge cornices, balustrades and window frames were renewed to a great extent. The sculptures on the roof balustrade were removed. The Palace, in effect, through this restoration became a copy of itself. Yet, why should it have a different fate than the majority of the famous cathedrals in France, which have received a third or fourth stone recladding in the course of time in order to reverse the effects of weathering?

If one wants to be exact, Walter Ulbricht had a copy of Shlüter’s building demolished, which now will be resurrected as yet another copy!

The picture shows the baroque cathedral by Boumann which Fredrich the Great had constructed about 1750. Previously he had the medieval cathedral, the Dominican church, torn down, since it lay too close to the Palace on the “Böhme Façade” side.

1840 – 1861

King Friedrich Wilhelm IV. Already while he was Crown Prince, the king had close ties of friendship with the great Berlin architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel. The latter drew up plans for, and built, apartments for the Crown Prince in the Spree River wing of the Palace, by erecting a mezzanine in the Erasmus Chapel. He created additional famous rooms in the Palace such as the Sternensaal (Hall of Stars) in the Gateway I section and the Tea Salon (See “Interior Rooms”).

Schinkel transformed the Lustgarten, which had been made over into a parade ground, once again into a garden with a large grass parterre and a central fountain.

His principal works he organized contrapuntally to the west-east axis of Unter den Linden along the Kupfergraben from north to south i.e. the Packhof, Altes Museum (an interpretation of the Agora in Athens), Academy of Architecture, the Palace Bridge and the Friedrichswerder Church. This ensemble can only be understood in the context of the Palace.

The Altes Museum with its open light-flooded hall of columns stands as a provocative response to the closed Lustgarten façade of the Palace. The view from the upper staircase landing of the Museum is famous.


The Grand Terrace in the Lustgarten is laid out. In 1858 the horse training area by Clodt is built, a present from the Russian Czar to Friedrich Wilhelm IV. After World War II, it was dismantled and today is to be found in Kleistpark on Potsdamer Street in front of the former Kontrollrat Building. The Berliners made fun of both of them saying that one symbolized the “advanced step backwards” and the other “the restricted step forwards”.


The cupola by the court architect Stüler, following a design originally by Schinkel, is placed atop the Eosander gate on the west front of the Palace. Beneath it was to be found the Palace chapel with room for 600 people.

1861 – 1888 

King and Emperor Wilhelm I. He used the Palace for state functions like the opening of the Reichstag in the White Hall or for grand court balls.

He himself, however, lived modestly in his old city palace Unter den Linden, from whose famous corner window he could watch the parade of the guards. After its destruction in 1945 during the war, the interior of the building was completely removed. In place of the corner room, there is to be found today a many times larger lecture room of the Humboldt University. Nevertheless, the exterior retains its historical appearance.

The Emperor only permitted changes to be made in the Schlüter courtyard of the Palace. The transverse wing received a new façade in the neo-renaissance style and the galleries of the courtyard were continued now to the west of Portals I and V.

1888, Three-Emperors

Emperor Friedrich III. As Crown Prince, Friedrich Wihelm was responsible for many construction plans at and around the Palace.

These included: a new cathedral in place of the Schinkel designed cathedral connected by a large wing with halls to the Palace following the demolition of the entire pharmacy section; and a gigantic campanile on the Spree. The responsible architect was Raschdorf, the later cathederal architect.

On account of his early death from cancer, after only 99 days of his reign, he could not bring any of these projects to fruition. He was a proponent of a constitutional monarchy after the English model, and was married to the daughter of the English Queen Victoria. Who knows how the history of the 20th century would have developed if he could have been active for 20 years more.

1888 – 1918

Emperor Wilhelm II. Intensive construction activity on the Palace, mostly in the neo baroque style after Schlüter.

The court architect was Ernst von Ihne, the court construction superintendent was Albert Geyer who was also the compiler of the most important historical works about the Palace.

In the Palace surroundings, the Palace Freiheit was torn down and in its place the national memorial with the equestrian statue of Emperor Wilhelm I erected. The picture shows the ceremonies related to the unveiling of the statue. A new royal stable block was built, the long bridge was altered to the neo baroque style and in place of the small Cavalier’s Bridge, there arose a new main bridge with a through street towards the east. For this project, a part of the old pharmacy was destroyed.

The cathedral by Schinkel was torn down. A gigantic new domed church in the historicizing neo baroque style was constructed by Raschdorf.

The White Hall by Stüler was torn down; the White Hall wing was gutted; the Wilhelminischen and Mecklenburgian apartments were built and in addition a new White Hall by Ihne with a gallery in the great Palace courtyard. All this was magnificent but not historically accurate: There were no chandeliers and wall sconces, but instead fully electrified indirect lighting. For lack of funds, the remodeling measures were broken off in 1910. The intention was to make a way around the White Hall Gallery by means of an addition to, and reconstruction of, the Eosander Portal in the Great Palace Courtyard. Since the Gallery’s construction, one could not go through the Portal to the south wing either through the second floor or the so-called Parade Floor, because there were great cisterns under the floor of the Chapel which had been installed in historic times to supply water. Whenever one desired to go from the Pleasure Garden side of the Parade Floor to the imperial apartments, one had to go all the way down to the ground floor and then back up again. Naturally, that was quite disagreeable. For this reason Friedrich Wilhelm I had caused a wooden walk to be built right across the central arch of the Portal, something which was optically very obtrusive and ugly. Wilhelm II was the first monarch who again made the Palace the center of his existence, and for this reason, the imperial apartments were built in the Palace Plaza wing.

1918, late autumn

Revolution in Germany. On November 9th the Emperor abdicated. The Palace was occupied by worker and soldiers’ committees and plundered. On Holy Evening, the army was sent against the revolutionaries. There were many dead. A great deal of damage was suffered by Portal IV, the Kaiser Wilhelm Monument and the Stable Block through artillery fire. Afterwards, there was a great funeral procession for the fallen past the Palace.

The picture shows Karl Liebknecht proclaiming the socialist German Republic on November 9th. Scheidemann had already proclaimed a republic two hours previously in the Reichstag, so Liebknechts’s proclamation came to nothing. It is interesting to note that the painter mixed up the Portals. Liebknecht is speaking, as can be seen, from the balcony of the Knight’s Hall, from Portal V, from which in 1914 the emperor had proclaimed the outbreak of war. However, Portal IV was removed from the Palace prior to its demolition in 1950 because it was considered to be the “Liebknecht “ Portal. Which one was truly the correct one?

1918 – 1944 

During the period after the first World War, the area around the Palace and the Pleasure Garden was the scene of many demonstrations, some quite militant. Here we see one such demonstration by the Communist Party.

There was an interregnum in the Palace. It was no longer used by the state. The Weimar Republic moved its headquarters to the west, to the Wilhelmstrasse. The President resided there in the Schwerin Palace.

The Palace experienced new uses by new tenants. The Palace Museum with the most important artistic collection of Berlin moved in. From 1929 on there were regular summer concerts in the Schlüter Courtyard. Among other tenants were the Kaiser Wilhelm Society (the predecessor of the present day Max-Planck-Institute), the Phonographic Archive, the Emergency Society of German Science, the Institute of Psychology of the University, the State Institute for Hydrology, and the Museum for Physical Education. Others were the Union of Governmental Officials, the Center for Child Nutrition and for the Obtaining of Work at Home, the Helene Lange Home, and the Organization for Student Assistance, which had established a cafeteria in the Palace kitchen. To round out this widely varied picture were the German Academic Exchange Service, the German Academy and the German Art Society which was disbanded in 1933 by the Reichs Chamber of Culture. In the Alabaster Hall, a rehearsal stage was erected. Museum directors and a number of private persons moved into the Palace living quarters.

1933 – 1945

The Third Reich. The national socialists avoided the Palace for their events, although they used the Pleasure Garden frequently for their parades. To this end, it was completely changed for the first May celebration in 1935. In place of the garden with monument, fountains, lawn, bushes and trees, there appeared a paved parade ground. A rectangular pattern was made which was intended to assist the masses to quickly find their places.

The monument to King Friedrich Wilhelm III and the granite basin of the fountain were moved to the edge of the area.

For the Olympic games of 1936, the Olympic torch burned in front of the Palace, surrounded by the flags of the participating nations. After the French campaign in 1940, the railroad car in which the capitulation in 1918 had been signed in the forest of Compiegne was displayed there as a war trophy. It was destroyed in a bombing raid.

At these events, the Palace was time and again misused as a backdrop for hanging huge flags.

1944, May

First severe bomb damage to the Palace. A high explosive bomb penetrated through the Eosander façade on the Pleasure Garden side into the cellar, but without causing a fire. As a result the Picture gallery, and beneath it the King’s chambers and in the ground floor, the apartments of Friedrich Wilhelm I, were largely destroyed. The shock wave broke the glass panes all over the Palace.

1945, February, 3rd

The Palace burns for four days after a heavy bombing attack. There were no attempts to put out the fire. After years of air raids, the worn out inhabitants of the city were resigned. During the final battle for Berlin, the Palace Plaza façade of the building came under artillery fire and suffered further heavy damage. However, in its basic substance, the Palace stood fast. It was less destroyed than the Charlottenburg Palace, which today shows none of its wartime damage.

1945 – 1948

Hans Scharoun draws up a cost proposal for the securing of the Palace ruins. The exhibitions, “Berlin Plans, a first Report” (1946), “Modern French Painting” (1946), “Reunion with the Museum’s Contents” including supposedly lost works and pictures labeled as so-called “Degenerate Art” by the Nazis (1946/47), and finally, 1948, the exhibition “1848” for the 100th anniversary of the Revolution of that year, take place in the White Hall and the rooms lying below it. In November the entire Berlin magistracy is removed. The city is split. Friedrich Ebert, a son of the first President of the Weimar Republic, becomes the mayor of East Berlin. He is a strong opponent of every attempt to reconstruct the Palace. Thereafter the Palace is cordoned off supposedly because it is liable to collapse. The SED (German East Communist Party) wins the upper hand in the east under the protection of the Soviets. With that the palace nears its end after a 500 -year history. There is a steady increase in the subtle attacks by the SED politicians, who with flimsy reasons, demand the removal of the Palace.

1950, September, 7th

The Berlin Palace is demolished on the order of SED Chairman Walter Ulbricht. The process goes on for almost 6 months. The cost of rebuilding the Palace, including the restoration of the costly series of interior rooms, is given at that time as 32 million East German marks in a report commissioned by the East German regime. The Palace
demolition and subsequent construction of the parade square with tribune cost around 8 million East German marks, in other words one quarter thereof. With this sum, which was available in a mere 6 months, one could have secured the building for the long term and begun the initial reconstruction!


In place of the Palace there arose the Marx-Engels Platz with its huge grandstand in the east which was used for the enormous demonstrations and marches of the German Democratic Republic. 750,000 people, in 72 columns, filed past the top leadership of the East German State for 5 hours. They, in turn, acknowledged the homage of the marchers from the grand stand.

1974  – 1976

Following diplomatic recognition of East Germany in the framework of the communist KSZE in Helsinki, the so-called Palace of the Republic is erected on one side of the giant square. It is the central show place of the German Democratic Republic for major political and cultural events. The palace is visited as the “House of the People” by millions who experience all sorts of functions there. The edifice is constructed with a steel skeleton. To protect it against fire, the 175,000 square meters of steel surfaces are coated with about 5,000 tons of sprayed on asbestos.

1990, September

Closing of the Palace of the Republic on account of the high degree of asbestos contamination. This action was pushed through by the workers in the palace because of a report done at the request of the East German government which caused them to fear for their health.


Beginning of discussions concerning the rebuilding of the old Palace. They grew in intensity with the solidification of post communist Berlin and led finally to the vote in the German Bundestag. Here one sees a picture of the Palace simulation from Unter den Linden. It was erected by the pro Palace forces to demonstrate how the renovated square would look.

1993 – 1994

Erection of the Palace simulation made from a painted tarpaulin which is mounted on a gigantic scaffold. It is the initiative of the Hamburg businessman Wilhelm von Boddien and his friends in the Union for the Berlin City Palace. (Förderverein Berliner Statdschloss e.V.) The chief sponsor is Thyssen, which supplied the scaffolding. The original idea came from the architectural historian Pro. Dr. Goerd Peschken and his friend, the architect Frank Augustin. Their concept was further developed and taken to France. The painting of the façade was produced by hand in Paris by a team of artists under Catherine Feff and required 1,500 man-days. The total cost of the project, which was in the millions, was exclusively paid out of private funds.


The international Spree Island competition is announced by the Federal government and the Senate of Berlin. Its purpose is to determine the structure of Berlin’s center. Over 1,000 architects take part in it. The three winning designs include the square form of the Palace once again, influenced to no small extent by the Palace simulation. The decision of the jury is that the Palace of the Republic should be demolished because it was wrongly conceived from an urban planing standpoint. Grass roots movements for its retention grow. They put on a series of protest rallies.


Commencement of removal of asbestos from the Palace of the Republic. Here one sees the remains of the “People’s Chamber” taken down to its basic structure.


Creation of a commission by the Federal government and the Berlin Senate, It’s purpose is to work out proposals for both the uses and the architecture of a new building on the Palace Square. (See also in the menu “Politics”, subtitle “Commission”) A survey by the Forsa Institute among Berliners shows that many more inhabitants vote for the rebuilding of the Palace than for construction of a new building in the modern style.


Termination of the removal of the asbestos from the Palace of the Republic. There remains only the facade, including the so-called “Gleitkern” of concrete and the steel skeleton.

2002, April, 17th

The above-mentioned expert commission “Historical Center of Berlin” hands over its report with the results of its work to the Federal Chancellor and the governing mayor of Berlin. (For more, see “Palace” and “Politics”)


In July, the German Bundestag decides by an overwhelming majority in favor of the rebuilding of the Berlin Palace on the basis of the commission’s suggestions.


The German parliament, the Bundestag, resolves to demolish the Palace of the Republic. Work is completed in December 2008. Until construction begins in 2012 on the Berlin Palace – Humboldt Forum, the open space is turfed over with grass.


The international architectural competition for the construction of the Berlin Palace – Humboldt Forum comes to a close. The winner and thus the duly commissioned lead architect is Italian Prof. Franco Stella of Vicenza. He reinforces his team with German architects Hilmer, Sattler und Albrecht of Berlin/Munich and gmp Gerkan, Marg & Partner of Hamburg/Berlin. A lawsuit taken out against this award by one of the beaten architects initially succeeds at the Federal Competition Authority, but in the appeals procedure before the Dusseldorf Upper District Court is finally rejected.

2010, 5th June

Following the international financial crisis of 2009, the Federal Government decides as part of a cost-cutting programme to postpone construction of the Berlin Palace – Humboldt Forum until 2014. However, with construction of the underground line running under the palace having been scheduled for 2013, it is decided after all to begin some initial building work, so-called ground-strengthening measures, in summer 2012. For structural reasons, construction of the palace foundations alone would otherwise cost €30 million more. The foundation stone is now to be laid in 2013. It is anticipated that the building will be ready for its users to move in by 2018. The opening of the Humboldt Forum is envisaged for 2019.


Building begins! Many hands, including those of Federal Minister Dr. Peter Ramsauer, Minister of State for Culture and Media, Bernd Neumann, Mayor of Berlin, Klaus Wowereit, and lots of other high-profile individuals press on the button to start the first big drill, which is to create 40-metre deep drill holes through the historic foundations to take long pilings anchored in the natural soil, on which the new Berlin Palace – Humboldt Forum can then be safely built. The historic foundations are being summarised in key aspects in an archaeological window. Due to the serious damage they suffered when the palace was blown up, they no longer provide any support and ‘float’ with no further loading underneath the new building.


By 12th June 2015, the building shell, including the dome, is finished. Great ceremony and great celebrations! The subsequent construction site open days were a huge success. 53,000 visitors came along, some still with preconceptions – and all left the site enthralled.
As he looked across from Portal V, past the cathedral to the Old National Gallery, one visitor expressed his astonishment at Franco Stella’s talent in lining up the building within the city in such a way that wonderful lines of sight were suddenly created. His perception was right, only it was the architect of the National Gallery who had this talent: when work began on the gallery, the palace had already been standing in its Baroque form for over 150 years. It was thus this beautiful temple that took the palace as its reference point and not the other way around.
All the same, the recognition of this link made us very happy, as the visitors were sensing once again the wonderful relationships between the historic centre and the palace and understanding the barbarism of the demolition in 1950 by order of the SED under Walter Ulbricht.