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Culture

The People Behind the Palace

Hamburg-based businessman Wilhelm von Boddien has spent the last eleven years lobbying for the reconstruction of the palace and can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.

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The Palace in downtown Berlin as it once was

After the wall fell, Wilhelm von Boddien told DW-TV, no one felt responsible for the issue of rebuilding the Berlin Palace. So he volunteered.

"I told them I'd like to organize it, but that, as a tractor and agricultural machinery salesman, I'd be laughed at if I went to the mayor and offered to rebuild the palace," Boddien explains. "The mayor would leave me standing there and walk away laughing. Now, however, there are millions of people supporting our project, tens of thousands donate money or are helping us with practical work," Wilhelm von Boddien continues.

Boddin's lobbying has paid off. Today, Boddien is the authority on anything to do with rebuilding the palace. The days when people called him a monarchist are long gone.

"They told me that since my name is Wilhelm, and I have an aristocratic von in my name, I needed the palace to call myself William the III. It's quite amusing."

Von Boddien has learnt how best to market his vision. He does not want the palace rebuilt completely -- just the facade. The rooms behind it should be modern.

The Berlin Stadtschloss Society plans to reconstruct three of the palace's baroque facades and the what it considers the most valuable part of the structure, the courtyard designed by architect Andreas Schlüter.

According to Boddien, this complex was one of the greatest examples of baroque architecture in Germany.

Future use

Wilhelm von Boddien's plans for a future use of a rebuilt palace include a library, a conference hall, a government guest house and the Museum for Exotic Art.

Construction costs are estimated at just under 600 million US dollars. "That means the state would have costs that are no higher than any other building project," explains Boddien.

Illusion of a Palace

In the 1990's, Boddien tried to get the public used to the idea of rebuilding the palace.

He hired artists and architects who created a giant, life sized painting of the facade on plastic sheeting.

Boddien then had this giant billboard installed in the original location for a few weeks.

That way people got an impression of what the rebuilt palace would look like.

The reaction of the Berliners was mixed, but many welcomed the idea of recreating the palace.

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