, , , , ,

Readers of this blog will know that I have a fascination for historical renovations of famous places. Among the many blogs on architecture and history I am following, two blogs one in Russia and one in Germany have large number of followers from around the world. Gropus who specialize in architecture, people sharing ideas and photos of specific projects underway, some discussions are esoteric and interesting, many bring specialize knowledge.

Russia since 1990 has seen a full blown restoration of countless Orthodox churches, monasteries, palaces, monuments of Imperial Russia. Yes the Romanov are back with a vengeance.

Monthly a new monument, monastery, church or palace opens completely renovated to its former glory, even Putin has his own pet project, the former palace of Grand Duke Konstantin which he rebuilt as the Official palace of the Russian President. The Konstantinovsky Palace was destroyed in 1944 now it lives again.

St-Petersburg and its outskirts was occupied between 1942-1944 by the Nazi army, the region experienced the death of a million citizens and the virtual destruction of its most historical buildings. But since 1990 the Government of Russia has given back to the Russian Orthodox Church its monasteries and churches and helped them financially with restoration, all of which is complicated due to old building techniques and material used.

All this restoration is going towards tourism promotion, the Soviets destroyed on purpose many historical places, looting and selling off assets, in some cases using once beautiful gardens to bury the millions of victims of the purges of Stalin, thus polluting waterways and gardens with the stench of human decay.

Putin changed all that and St-Petersburg being his hometown lavishly benefitted from monies to massively rehabilitate the city and its sights. Armies of artisans, construction trades of all kinds, architects and historians are at work. Many have taken photos of their work and share them with the public, creating excitement in the process.

In Germany many cities have seen vast restoration in what was East Germany. Many of the websites I read are in German and great discussions take place on how to proceed or why not do this or that. Of course cost $$$ is always a huge factor and in most cases the public has made substantial monetary donations, the Federal Government cannot do it all and also the political aspect comes into play. Former communists and socialists oppose for historical and ideological reasons some restorations, an example the memorial to the first German Emperor Wilhelm I (1870). Same in Potsdam with the Garnison Church which is being rebuilt now with donations from the Lutheran Church and other members of the public. The socialist on the Potsdam town council oppose this project for ideological reasons. German Newspapers carry articles and opinion pieces and no project is not without controversy. In Brunswick the former ducal palace destroyed during the war was rebuilt however to make it economically viable the inside is a shopping mall.

Not to forget that many of the old nobility is still around and have opinions on what has happened to their former homes. In Russia the Romanov descendants some of whom have returned to live are paraded by the authorities who cater to them on the theme of the good old days, romantic mythology for the masses. The Church and Russian Christian Orthodox who support the Romanov Family is courted by Putin for votes and support through such endeavours. Finally the tourists also love to see the sights restored.

Germany does the same thing, the old nobles now have wineries, renovated castle turned into B&B or appear at public events, photoshoots etc to lend a sense of the authentic. Even the old Imperial family, Hohenzollern have gone into commercial ventures, one created a jazz band, appear at cultural events, run museums in their family chateau, talk to the tourists who are awe struck.

Here are some photos of today and yesterday to illustrate the point of the discussions going on websites. I find this interesting because we do not have those discussions here in Canada, no one is really interested, heritage is not understood in the same way.

It also gives an idea of what people are thinking and how they see their country and themselves today compared with 90 years ago in what was to become a very dark chapter for Germany.

One big discussion on the reconstruction of the City Palace now called Humboldt Forum. the Architect Franco Stella,  imagined a re-built palace with historical facade on 3 sides and one very modern facade on the East side. He wanted to show past and present and since this re-built palace will be a museum to world culture, there is a mix of two visions, from where we were to where we are now. The inside rooms will not be recreated, the rooms are designed for a modern museum with no reference to its imperial past. Again the contrast between former use and new use, it does not prevent the debate about why not recreate the historical rooms.


The East facade of 1445 on the Spree River around 1920 with its private garden.


The East facade of the Palace was the private living quarter of the Imperial Family. The Eastern portion of the Palace will expand as of 1701 when the Kingdom of Prussia is proclaimed.


The old Apothek or Pharmacy wing of the palace across the street from the Lutheran Cathedral. This oldest portion of the palace will not be rebuilt, instead we now have this modern new wing. This was a compromise with the various political parties in the Bundestag. It was never meant to be a reconstruction of the Imperial Palace or a memorial to the Kaiser. The three historical facade, South, West and North fit with all the other buildings in the area of the same era, whereas the Eastern facade is facing across the river the modern area of Alexander Platz.


The Humboldt Forum will open to the public as a Museum, conference centre, city library and a rooftop restaurant in October 2020.