Can we do away with history?
It's almost inevitable that the Palast der Republik, the architectural symbol of the GDR in Berlin, will be demolished. The reconstruction of the Hohenzollern castle, the former building on the site, is becoming far more regularly discussed.
In the fifties the Ulbrich administration allowed the complete demolition of the castle, which had already been damaged during the war, although not as badly as a number of buildings which were subsequently rebuilt. Of course, as a symbol of monarchy, it wasn't highly regarded by the socialists, who were trying to build up a revolutionary image. The architecture reflected the political ethos of the time: a different cultural aesthetic, focusing on functionality. (A well-known example is the mythical Alexanderplatz).
The construction of the enormous Palast der Republik, situated on the southeast side of the Schloßplatz, started in 1973 and took three years to complete. The building was designed to be both the seat of the East German Parliament (the Volkskammer) and a cultural centre holding exhibitions and events. The huge palace, designed by the architect Heinz Graffunder, is a 180 metre long and 87 metre wide rectangular block, partially covered with dark-brown glass and metallic gold shutters, and partially with white marble. Originally, there was a large hall with 5000 seats, the Parliament, many restaurants and bars, a theatre and even a bowling alley.
For 14 years it represented one of the most important public buildings of the German Democratic Republic. It also housed a remarkable permanent art collection, now stored at the Deutsches Historisches Museum, which consisted of works admired by the regime. The interior furnishings were strongly criticized for many years. Hundreds of lamps hanging from the ceiling of the main foyer were given the nickname Erichs Lampenladen (Erich's lamp shop), refering to the president Erichs Honecker.
Palast der Republik © Gary L. Catchen
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