This past weekend in Berlin a special opening tour of the City Palace for curious Berliners. This project is nearing completion after 18 years of preparation and work. The former City Palace of the Kings of Prussia and Emperors of Germany was very badly damaged in 1944. After the war the old Palace was now in Communist East Berlin, like most of all the great buildings of the German Capital. The Communist leadership decided in the 1950’s to destroy what was left, despite the fact the could have restored it. Since there had been a palace on the site for 500 years, the population was not happy with this decision. For decades the area the size of 3 football fields was a parking lot and parade ground for East German troops.
After German re-unification in 1989, the idea of re-building the City Palace was put forward and the plan was approved by the Federal Government of Germany, the City of Berlin and the State of Brandenburg. The financing budgeted at 800 million Euros is shared amongst levels of government and the public donations of 105 million Euros to re-build the South, North and Western facade in the Baroque style of the 18th century. The Eastern facade is modern as will be the interior. The old rooms of the palace will not be re-built as they are now dedicated to show the collections of diverse cultures, there will be a restaurant on the roof, lecture halls, a library and concert hall.
By re-building the City Palace it completes the architectural ensemble of the heart of the City as envisioned by Frederick II of Prussia (1712-1786). Because they are Baroque facades on three sides, every element had to be carved by hand and in some cases gilded. The gilded balcony railings and many roof statues still have to be installed and the great dome and lantern need to be completed as is the landscaping.
The opening of the Humboldt Forum as the City Palace is now called is scheduled for Summer 2019. Situated next to the Lutheran Cathedral of Berlin and Imperial Mausoleum to the Hohenzollern Family and all the museums containing the wonderful collections, Unter den Linden avenue, and all the other palaces and university of the city is will certainly be a magnet.