Palast der Republik, Schlossplatz
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type of use
1,3 millions Euro
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Urban Catalyst Project
Feasibility study and exhibition on the temporary use of the Palast der Republik in Berlin
time frame: April 2003 to October 2006
initiators: studio urban catalyst
users: WMF Club
Forum Junge Bewegungskultur
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In the biginning of 2001 an international commission started debating on the future of the site of the Palace of the Republic. In late April 2002 the 1-year process ended and the following recommendation was made public:
- recommendation for the reconstruction of the historic facades of the castle demolished in 1950
- proposed use concept: Humboldt-Forum accommodating the state-owned outer-European collections, the science collection of the Humboldt University and the central library of the Berlin state in addition to a shared venue for public events and exhibitions
- cost estimate: the provisional cost estimate for such a new structure amounts to 668 m EUR, to be raised through a public-private partnership
- time frame: the beginning of construction works will start in 2006 at the very earliest, possibly ending in the year 2010
In July 2002 the German parliament passed a motion (384 yea votes of 589 in total) supporting this recommendation of historic facades around a new structure. On the 10th of July a new working group was formed under the auspices of the cultural minister of the German government in order to develop a feasible concept for the implementation of this decision and prepare a further architectural competition.
The instant implementation of demolition and new built structure is unlikely due to the following reasons:
- the financing of this costly and very ambitious project remains highly uncertain. In the context of very limited state funds a public financing can be ruled out, however, a purely private financing is not appropriate and not wanted
- the proposed use concept has yet to be proven realistic and appropriate. On the one hand, the concept will be influenced by the final financing arrangement, on the other hand, alternative ideas such as the use of the site solely for the library or for an extension of the nearby Museum Island through a gallery complex.
- The recommendation of incorporating three historical facades in the structure days little about the final design. A further architectural competition is needed which can only be held in a years time. Likewise, the strict guidelines are unlikely to attract international architects of the calibre needed for such a project.
According to the general perception construction works for a new built structure will not be started before 2006. However, the asbestos removal within the Palace of the Republic will end in December this year already. After some further precautionary safety measures have been implemented, the building will remain as an empty ruin in the centre of the city. The structure cannot be demolished before a new structure is built, since the foundation of the building was constructed as a sealed basin, which needs the weight of the structure to counterbalance the upward forces of the ground water. A removal of the structure without compensatory and costly weight would lead to the uncontrolled lifting of the foundation structure and endanger nearby buildings such as the Berlin cathedral etc.
THE IDEA OF TEMPORARY USE
During one of the final session of the international expert commission in April 2002, Adrienne Goehler and Bruno Flierl put forward a motion in favour of a temporary use of the structure, which was unanimously passed and integrated into the final report. A leading German newspaper reported: Independently of the final decision over the eventual use of the building [Palace of the Republic]... on the 19th of November 2001 the commission voted in favour of opening the remaining structure to the general public and allow the staging of cultural programmes as long as all costs and risks are met...(Süddeutsche Zeitung, 18/04/2002). The former cultural minister of the German government Professor Nida-Rümelin replied to questions on the proposal I am in favour of temporary use, which, however, should not be misused in order to sabotage the planned demolition of the structure... (FAZ, 15.5.2002)
Encouraged by the unanimous vote of the international expert commission in favour of a temporary use, studio UC took the initiative and contacted various stakeholders and potential users as well as experts in order to develop a precise concept for implementation, which the commission had failed to provide. The point of departure was the believe, that a temporary use could be installed for much less cost than what was published in the press at the time. The UC team was acutely aware that in the context of a lack of public funds, questions concerning costs could always be an volatile aspect that could threaten the overall idea. In April 2002 studio UC organised a meeting with 35 participants that was held in the offices of the planning authority of the Mitte district. As a result, the team was awarded the mandate to lead a smaller working group in order to develop a feasibility study together with interested user groups, based on the assumption that no costs should occur for the owner of the building.
feasibility study for a temporary use of the former Volkskammersaal (parliamentary chamber of the GDR) in the palace of the republic
Studio UC developed a feasibility study on the basis of the following objectives:
- to create an architectural solution that addresses the issues of fire safety and safety of circulation, and creates a basic infrastructure for a spectrum of temporary use scenarios
- to develop a use concept based on existing proposals and ideas, as well as a concept for a team of curators that will refine the conceptual profile and select specific programmes
- to propose a management structure that will take on all necessary works for the implementation of the proposal
- to identify realistic strategies for financing the necessary investment and running costs
The concept is based on the following premises:
- the proposed time frame for the implementation of the temporary use concept is 2-3 years (with the option of extending this period in relation to the progress of plans for a new building), before the building will eventually be demolished
- all necessary measures proposed that generate cost are reduced to a minimum in accordance to the provisional character of the building and the current economic situation
- no or very limited costs will occur to the owner of the building (the Federal Republic of Germany) through the implementation of the concept no gains (e.g. rent) is to be expected from the use of the building (temporary users take on running costs of the building)
- parts of the building will be made accessible by the general public through the staging of cultural programmes, which also helps to revive the central area of Berlins historic city and triggers a process of saying good-by to an important if controversial building of East Germany in the appropriate dignity.
From the 13th to the 17th of November 2002 the UC team held an exhibition in the Staatsratsgebäude next to the Palace of the Republic. With the support of the Federal Agency for Political Education and the Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation, as well as contributions from participating Berlin user groups such as the Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Sophiensaele etc., studio uc was able to raise a substantial budget.
Big interest of local and national press and TV, as well as of individuals and institutions showed that the exhibition was perceived as an important public event in the city, which already triggered a wide discussion on temporary use of the Palace of the Republic.