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My post yesterday may have conveyed the wrong idea, if I go by the comments I received. I was trying, in my second language, to convey that retirement meant that I had to re-invent myself and find new interests, which is not always easy to do. At least I am not sitting in front of the television set 24/7 and becoming a couch potato, mind you it would be difficult to do since we do not have a television and starring at the walls is not my thing anyway. It is just another challenge in 2016 to move into news digs but I wanted to re-decorate our apartment and re-paint etc, so this is the opportunity.

Speaking of re-invention since 1997 I have been following developments on the restoration, rebuilding, rejuvenation of Berlin and specifically the re-building of all the buildings that once existed in the historical centre of the capital before 1939 and the devastation of the War. A master plan is being followed and after reunification of the two Germanys in 1989, the fall and removal of the wall, the capital moved back from Bonn to Berlin which has only been the Capital of a unified country since 1870. Prior to that Berlin was the Capital of Brandenburg and of the Kingdom of Prussia.

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The first building that needed to be rebuilt and restored was the Reichstag which had been torched and then bombed between 1933 and 1945. A British architect was hired, Sir Norman Foster to re-think how the re-christened building now called the Bundestag (Federal Parliament) would look. The whole philosophy the German Political elite came up with was to focus on Enlightenment and Ideas, leading to a transparent building where the affairs of the new Germany would be conducted. Foster retained the outside walls with all the symbols of Imperial Germany, the original building was built in 1894, but he imagined the new inside would be all glass including the dome, anywhere you look you see through walls and floors, the idea being that transparency = truth, Germany would be an open democracy for all to see.

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You can see the difference in the old and the new German (Reichstag) Bundestag. 

In the meantime in 1946 Germany was divided, the Iron Curtain fell and down Unter den Liden avenue just 3 Km away on the ruins of the old Imperial City Palace rose the new Parliament of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), a building full of the typical Communist Kitsch of the 1970’s

The old palace had stood on this site since 1443 remodelled many times, expanded and after 1870 remodelled yet again to now represent the new Unified German Empire, all baroque and over the top.

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The site of the German Democratic Republic Parliament occupied only a third of the ground occupied by the Old City Palace, the rest of the space as seen in this photos was a parking lot and parade ground. I saw it in the last years before its demolition in Berlin and it was an ugly building. It was Communist functional and also full of asbestos, this is what led to its demolition, which took several years because of the risk of removing all this asbestos.

I have followed the debates for some years how the Municipal administration in Berlin, the Brandenburg State and the Federal German Government have handled the demolition of the East German Parliament and reconstruction of the City Palace. There was a lot of discussions in the Bundestag and in the Senate and many votes on motions and who would pay for what and most importantly what would be the use of the rebuilt City Palace which is scheduled to cost around 750 million Euros.

The idea of re-building was finally accepted by the Senate and the Parliament after it was proposed that an international competition would be held to find an architect who would handle this project, Italian architect Franco Stella won the competition with his design. The Palace could not be a copy of the old demolished one and there would be no restoration of the original rooms or decor. The theme of the rebuilt Palace would be the Humanities and World Culture and it will be called the Humboldt Forum after the famous 18th century philosopher scientist. The only original elements of the old Palace would be the three facades in the Wilhelmine Style of the 1890’s, the West facade, the South and the North with the original portals, the East facade is utterly post-modern strangely enough given that it was the oldest side of this palace. The point of recreating those facade was to blend in with the Lutheran Cathedral and all the other classical buildings in the area forming the Fridericianum, meaning in the style favoured by Frederick II the Great (1712-1786).

The idea of re-building the Palace came from one man a Hamburg businessman and aristocrat Wilhelm von Boddien who lobbied and advocated as of 1993. He also proposed that the re-built exterior facades West, South and North would be financed by public donations and the interior work would be financed by the German Federal Government. The finished product would be run and administered by the City of Berlin, the Humboldt University and the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation.

So I have been following the construction from the website and here are some photos http://berliner-schloss.de/en/. What is astonishing is the high degree of care and the number of artists, sculptors, archeologists, historians and Academics involved in this project. Donations from around the world have pored in and famous visitors have come to see the construction site. The project is scheduled to be completed by 2019.

The Palace will occupy its original footprint meaning it is very large and will dominate the area. So far in the last 4 years the ground was prepared after meticulous archeological digs into the old cellars of the demolished palace which were simply covered over. The reinforced concrete shell of the building has been completed and now the brick work and sculpted stone ornamental elements are being added including the windows, the dome of the Palace chapel is also in place, though not the lantern.

The walls are very thick if you look carefully at the photos and the men working on the brick work. On top of the brick work will be added later a coat of cement which will be painted to give the exterior walls their final colours.

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Here you see men, bricklayers working, you can see how huge the windows of the Palace are compared to them.

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Here we see a worker measuring as the carved stone blocks are put in place on the Western Portal (main gate) of the Palace. You can also judge the thickness of the concrete skeleton structure.

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You can see men working on the Western Portal of the Palace installing the carved stone blocks on top of the concrete skeletal structure. The higher portal was originally used by the Emperor and the smaller portals on either side by other family members. Similar design as one found in Imperial palaces in China.

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This photo shows how thick the concrete walls are and then on top 3 layers of red brick and on top the carved stone elements. Very solid construction. The naked brick will get dressed with a coat of cement which will be painted to give a finish look to the walls.

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Five levels of scaffoldings to allow workers to lay the bricks and stone carvings. For the first 3 floors of the Palace structure, gives an idea of the height of the ceilings.

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This mock up shows the finish look of the walls of the Palace with its carved elements. However much more complicated carved elements will also adorn the Portals and large bronze tablets will also be affixed to the main Western Portals proclaiming the glory of Prussian kings.

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The Eastern facade on the Spree River with a view of the Lutheran Imperial Cathedral of Berlin, very modern look on that facade to indicate that the Palace is a re-construction.

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Built to last obviously.

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A maquette of the old Palace as it was before its destruction during the Second World War. The other buildings in this display have all been restored to their original look and are part of the Museum Island complex housing the Royal collections. The five museums were also bombed and all the buildings have been restored. David Chipperfield was another famous architect who worked on the restoration of the museums.

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The dome of the Royal Chapel of the Palace, 24 meters circumference and 9 meters high. Missing is the lantern on top with its dancing angels supporting a Latin Cross. A donor is sought for that item which is quite expensive according to the catalogue. Originally the chapel was large enough to accommodate 600 persons.

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The South elevation of the Palace once construction is completed in 2019.

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In 2019 the view of the Museum Island, the Lutheran Cathedral and the Palace (Humboldt Forum).

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