Berlin's Palace of the Republic becomes an East German relic
The Palace of the Republic in Berlin was regarded as a powerful symbol by the East German government and yet in 2006 it was decided that the Erich Honecker's ostentatious display had to go.
An East German landmark
A prestige project of East Germany, the Palace of the Republic opened on April 23, 1976 after a 32-month construction period. The building with its golden brown mirrored front housed not only the former East German Parliament, it also played host to rock concerts, theater productions and fashion shows. With its foyers, restaurants and a large event hall, the building served as a cultural palace.
Thanks to its opulent lighting and pompous décor, the Palace of the Republic earned the nicknames "Palazzo Prozzo" or "Erich's Lighting Shop" — a play on Erich Honecker, the then-general secretary of the ruling party's (SED) central committee. In 1990, the building was closed by East Germany's first democratically elected parliament after just 14 years in use. The reason: toxic asbestos.
A new cultural forum at the Schlossplatz
On January 19, 2006 the third and final decision for the building's demolition was taken. The German Bundestag called for the establishment of a new cultural forum in the heart of Berlin.
Slowly taken apart
Although the building should have disappeared from the skyline by the beginning of 2007, asbestos removal proved more difficult than anticipated. In pushing back the original schedule, the demolition went over budget, increasing costs by tens of millions of euros.
An empty shell
After the palace's closure in 1990, the building was slowly taken apart, leaving an empty shell behind. When the demolition began in spring of 2006, over 500 tons of glass, 20,000 tons of steel, and 56,000 tons of concrete had to be hauled away.
Bit by bit
With the last section of the building removed at the end of 2008, demolition took longer than the 32 months required for its construction. The concrete hole left behind had to be filled with more than 100,000 cubic meters of sand in order to keep the Berlin Cathedral located opposite from tilting.
Whether or not to demolish the Palace of the Republic and reconstruct the historical Berlin City Palace, which had stood at that location from 1443 until 1950, was a topic of hot debate for years. What statement would be made in doing so? Would Germany be erasing a part of its own history? The graffiti on this picture says "The GDR never existed."
Shortly after the Palace of the Republic disappeared, the lot was spruced up with green. In 2011, the temporary Humboldt Box was erected, a small info center with models and interactive exhibitions where Berliners and visitors to the city alike could have a look at plans for the Berlin City Palace and the Humboldt Forum.
The new Berlin City Palace
And there it is: the unfinished concrete fixture that is the Berlin City Palace. Already, the palace has cost the state €600 million euros. Its baroque facade, which will cost €80 million euros, will be financed entirely via donations. By the end of 2019, it should finally play host to Humboldt Forum exhibitions, theater productions and international conferences.
The new Berlin City Palace
And there it is: the unfinished concrete fixture that is the Berlin City Palace. Already, the palace has cost the state 590 million euros. Its baroque facade, which will cost 80 million euros, will be financed entirely via donations. By 2019, it should finally play host to Humboldt Forum exhibitions, theater productions and international conferences.