Architect: Prof. Franco Stella
Collaborator: Arch. Michelangelo Zucchini

Architect: Prof. Franco Stella
Design Group: FS HUF PG: Franco Stella Berliner Schloss-Humboldt-Forum Projektgemeinschaft GbR (Franco Stella Architetto, Hilmer&Sattler-Albrecht GmbH, gmp GmbH)

The novelty announced at the beginning of the 20th century regarding the ruins of the Campanile of San Marco in Venice by the assertion: “where it was and how it was”, destined to become almost a synonym of reconstruction, was not so much the reproduction of a destroyed monument, as its emerging conflict with the architectural culture of the period: a conflict which lasted for the entire century and which is still alive today, on almost the same terms. The Curators-Restorers of the Old and the Architects of the New, for very different reasons, agree to be against the reconstruction: the first ones because they believe that the ‘old-original’ material is a necessary requirement for the authenticity and monument-value of an old building, the second ones because they think that the ‘new-original’ form is a necessary requirement for the authenticity and modernity of a new building. Despite the adversity of the modern theories of design as well as of restoration, the reconstruction of the monuments destroyed by wars or natural disasters has been largely practiced in European cities: in particular, almost all the residence-palaces of the German cities, destroyed  during World War II, have been rebuilt at different times. I believe that the opportunity of reconstruction should be based, case by case, on the importance of the lost building for the collective memory and for the identity of a city. The civil and urban-architectural importance of the Berlin Palace justifies its reconstruction.

“The Palace was not in Berlin, Berlin was the Palace”: the writer Wolf Jobst Siedler summarized in 1991 the importance of the Palace for the city of Berlin in this sentence, which has been often cited afterwards. In 1443, when Prince Frederick II laid the first stone of his fortress-residence besides the Spree, the ‘double city’ of Berlin and Cölln had a few thousand inhabitants. One can say that the Palace of the sovereigns influenced in Berlin, more than in any other great European city, the forms of the urban growth. The main squares, streets and buildings of Berlin’s Centre had the Palace as a point of reference: they are almost all still standing, because the damaged ones by the war were restored or rebuilt, and the built ones at the time of the GDR have been demolished.


The new Palace destined to be the Art and Culture Center ‘Humboldt-Forum’ is a composition of old reconstructed and new constructed elements: it has a base of 185 x120 meters and a height of 30 meters, over which a dome rises up to 70 meters height. According to the decision of the German Parliament in 2002 and to the program of the competition in 2008, the volumes and six façades – three towards the city and three towards the “small courtyard” (Schlüterhof) – of the ‘baroque palace’ and the 19th century dome, have been reconstructed. According to the project, also the three portals facing the “great courtyard” (Eosanderhof) and the façade of the dome have been reconstructed. The new construction consists of five buildings: the new eastern wing facing the Spree, in the area of the oldest constructions of the Palace; the four others buildings – a pair of ‘linear blocks’ and a pair of ‘hall blocks’– are placed inside the building, in the area of the Eosanderhof. The project develops the themes of the architectural identity and civil-urban importance of the lost building: the Palace for the design of the building as a whole; the Piazza for the form and the function of the courtyards; the Town- Gate for the portals; the Wall and the  Columns for the façades. We can say that the new Palace is a building with three courtyards conceived as public squares and six building-gates conceived as town gates.

In order to transform the old Castle-residence of the Brandenburg Princes into the prestigious palace of the Prussian kings, at the end of the 17th century the architect Schlüter redesigned it as a unitary architectural building, with a rectangular plan with four wings, following the example of the renaissance and baroque Italian palaces. Thus a new wing, similar to the other three, should have replaced the heterogeneous buildings overlooking the Spree. The eastern wing of the new building is placed within the boundaries of Schlüter’s projected wing for the achievement of the idea of the palace. Owing to its window-openings with a size similar to that of the portals – about six metres high and three metres wide and one metre and twenty centimetres deep – the façade appears as a ‘wall of triliths’, which evokes the loggias of a public palace.

The Portals with the form and function of a town-gate were a peculiar element of the architectural identity and urban importance of the Berlin Palace. Five open portals gave public access to the courtyards: three to the Eosanderhof and two to the Schlüterhof. Through a reconstruction extended to the portals towards the Eosanderhof, all the portals regain their urban value as town-gates; a sixth portal is created in the new eastern wing. Through uninterrupted sequences of public spaces, the city crosses the building both in direction north- south and west-east.

The two courtyards of the baroque Palace were designed as public squares and remained for a long time among the most important squares of Berlin. They evoked the idea of the piazza, as described in the treatises of the Renaissance, with their portals turned both towards the city and the courtyard, and with the surrounding loggias. All the portals facing the city gave access, through columned atriums, to the courtyards; other portals, facing only the courtyards, gave access to the interior space. The idea which especially characterizes the identity of this building are the two courtyards conceived as public squares in relation with the reconstructed portals of the former Eosanderhof: the open passage, named Schlossforum, in relation with the north and south portals; the covered place, named Halle Agora, in relation with the west portal.  

Schlüterhof: The old Courtyard as Piazza
The baroque façades of three sides of the eastern courtyard – 50 metres wide and 80 metres long – are rebuilt. The new façade of the west side completes  the motif of the stone loggias on the two lower floors, and achieves the Schlüter’s idea of giving this ‘ceremonial courtyard’ the scenographic character of a theatre-square. It will be an attractive meeting place, appropriate also for musical and theatre shows.

Schlossforum: The new Courtyard as Forum
The public passage Schlossforum, crosses the building along the north-south central axis, which were the entrances to the Palace, thus linking the Lustgarten and the Schlossplatz. The long new façades, adorned by the architectural order, create a ‘columned street’; the rebuilt portals, at the two ends of the street, evoke the idea of the triumphal arch. The combination of Old and New reminds an ancient Forum.

Halle Agora: The new Courtyard as Theatre
The Halle Agora, conceived as the place for the entrance and reception, but also as a place for meetings and various artistic performances, is a cubical courtyard, which measures 30 metres per side. On the western side, the portal designed by Eosander as an imitation of Constantine’s and Septimius Severus’s triumphal arches is rebuilt; the new façades on the other three sides have superimposed loggias. As a whole, this covered courtyard has the character of a theatre, with the rebuilt portal as an ancient scaenae frons and the new galleries as loggias for the audience.

The new façades, like the old ones, are made of walls and columns, often combined, with distinct roles: the walls for the construction and the trilithic system made of columns and architraves for the ornament of the building and of the city. The rebuilt baroque façade is not a ‘mask’ made of a thousand pieces hung from the modern structure behind them, but an autonomous self-supporting construction: a sixtyfive centimetre-thick brick-wall, with sandstone ornaments, equal in form and material to the original ones.

The Art and Culture Centre settled in the new Berlin Palace, will be a “place of meeting with the cultures of the world”, dedicated to the Brothers Humboldt. The design of the interior space is based on the principle of the adequacy to the function, and of the representation of the purpose. On the ground floor there are spaces of general public interest; on the first floor there are the exhibition rooms for a special Museum of the City of Berlin and for the Humboldt University; on the second and third floors are allotted, respectively, the spaces for the Ethnological Museum and the Asian Art Museum.

The re-construction and new-construction of the Berlin Palace as ‘Palace of the Cultures of the World’ signifies the reconstruction and development of the main squares of Berlin’s centre at the same time: the Lustgarten, the Schlossplatz and the Schlossfreiheit recover their lost urban dimension and their most important architectural wall, and a new square overlooking the Spree is created. Through the new and the rebuilt portals, the four exterior squares are connected with the three interior courtyards into a unique Piazza. The new Berlin Palace with its squares promises to be again the Centre of Berlin.