Blog posts   << Previous post | Next post >>
Front page, and site plan of the Berlin Castle Square (Schlossplatz) with current and former buildings, from the invitation letter of the Tagesspiegel, Spring 1996. el
© Tagesspiegel newspaper, Berlin.
Perspective View of the Exterior of the Church on the Werdersche Markt in Berlin. Dr[awn] by Schinkel, engr[aved] by C[arl] F[riedrich] Thiele.
© Karl Friedrich Schinkel, Collected Architectural Designs. With a Foreword by Doug Clelland (London: Academy Editions - New York, St. Martin´s Press, 1982), Plate 85.
Joost Meuwissen, Berlin, August 1996. 13 ball pen drawings on paper, 29,7 x 21 cm. Architect´s collection.
© Joost Meuwissen Architect.


Posted 01 Aug 1996

Joost Meuwissen, Berlin. 13 pages of fax post, sent from Rechberg, Germany, to Matthijs Bouw, Amsterdam, August 1996.

BerlinA. To Have a Volkspalast of Our Time.

Joost Meuwissen

Quite disturbing that they excavate the silly Schloss fundaments.
The Palast der Republik should be reconstructed. It should be called: Palast der heutigen Republik, or something like that. It should function as a Volkspalast.
In her article ‘Die Mitte der Mitte’ in the Tagesspiegel, Monika Zimmermann is completely right in pointing out, that the Prussian kings never invited the Prussian nobility into their court, and that the Prussian palace was surrounded by a Volksstadt – Berlin.[1] I disagree, however, with her argument, that the Schloss would function as a national symbol today. It simply is not. The Reichstag is.
It is just a Prussian Schloss, which might be, as one of the proposals suggests, replaced by a Bavarian Schloss – Neuschwanstein – just any other German Schloss, of which there are so many.
If you would reconstruct, the idea would be to have many Schlosses, instead of having one of them. The Palast der Republik is the best Schloss, though.
Now for Schinkel, it is clear that the directions (lines of development, lines of visuality) were always lateral with regard to the main entrance of the Schloss.
The rectangular visuality from the museum and the triangular visuality from the Academy point building together formed a visual system of how far the Volksstadt might approach the Schloss.
At the museum, he worked with ‘apparent extent’ (see my Lustgarten-text.)
At the Academy, he worked with the visual cone.
Now the apparent extent of the Museum might be restored, but this is not necessary.
Rebuilding the Academy, without the triangular visuality, would make urbanistically no sense.
(However, we should acknowledge the fact there is some common sense about rebuilding the Academy. It is politically correct.)

In the present situation, the “square” or available space is not only indefinitely bigger than it was in Schinkel's days, the Volkspalast also requires a sort of different distance, not a distance between Volksstadt and historical dynasty but a distance between Volksstadt and pop concert (between Volksstadt and manifestation of Volksstadt, between Volksstadt and its transcendental moment, between Volksstadt en 'uit je dak gaan' [go crazy.]) → place with no roof.
For that, traditional axial/apparent extent visuality is not enough, creating meaningless distance.
Neuschwanstein is such a good solution, because it offers a point building which consists only of height, instead of Schinkel's visual cone. The problem however, is that the Neuschwanstein points offer in a way natural height (refer to natural height), and give no definition of a possible extensivity of the square whatsoever. (We know that difficulty from our Salzburg barns scheme.)
In extending the “square”, Schinkel's Friedrichwerder church, which was never meant to really be part of the square, and has therefore twin towers which are as low as possible within the architectural scheme of the church, thus not disrupting the horizontality of the “square”, and by twining the towers creating another, “off-side” axiality
*to be continued*

*Berlin continued*
Schinkel´s Friedrichwerder church, in its “off-side” axiality, may replace the indeterminate Schloss entrance, though, because the twin towers, on the whole of the square, are the only vertical “porch” motive left. (Friedrichwerder church, which reminds of a dog Gestalt looking towards the wrong direction. Porch indeterminate, because not participating to square thing.)

Now, as it proves to be difficult to find a function for the Academy to be rebuilt, we should remember that it was always difficult to find adequate functions for this area in the past. For instance, Schinkel had great trouble in his endeavour to separate the art in his museum from the horses and their stables which were part of the same program at the time – at a time when the Lustgarten still was an area for parades. Determining the functions within a close proximity of the Schloss was as difficult as it is upon the empty square today.
Therefore, Schinkel added iconography. He proposed a row of busts on high columns along the Cathedral (which at the time was smaller), featuring great Germans like Van Beethoven, Rembrandt, and Goethe, and which was not executed. (Completely comparable to the Valhalla at Regensburg.)[2] The other iconography being the new one on the Schloss Bridge, which was also designed by Schinkel, replacing the old Dogs Bridge (Hundebrücke), featuring German virtues, like Courage, Pattriotism, Strength etc. These virtues were represented by naked young men who were too weak and feeble to stand on their own legs and therefore would be, half asleep, supported by some sort of angels (in order to reach some sort of composition): which – of course – was executed and is still kept there today. Among the Berlin people it caused a lot of hilarity and they were mocked at in the papers.[3]
In line with these naive (in the good sense of the word) schemes, I proposed a row of Dogs overlooking the empty square two years ago – when it was still undetermined whether the Schloss would be rebuilt or the Palast der Republik restored. As the different races of dogs are men-bred, they are themselves unconscious about their organizational depth (their history, their being always present at people's portrait paintings in the past, while at the same time the common Berlin people walk their dogs in this area and very slowly become to look like their dogs). Of course, this was also linked with the old Hundebrücke which was replaced by Schinkel. Rather than being historical, they represent history.
While being politically completely correct, they nevertheless would monumentalize the physical emptiness of the square today (which still was an option two years ago, but is not anymore).
Since the real existing vertical element of the square would be the famous image-like television tower, and since the television tower has an extensive park area at the back of the Palace of the Republic, it might be obvious that the empty square might at best be filled with a doubling, an extension, of the restored Palace of the Republic. From the historical development of appearing and disappearing built volumes at the spot, there would be no objection to build a Big volume at the spot, because it leaves enough free and green areas, but ones which now would become very well determined.
Therefore I propose BerlinA, which is comparable to the Amsterdam ArenA, featuring soccer games as well as pop concertos and open-air sex parties - everything that takes place in worn-out former industrial fabric in the periphery should re-enter and strengthen the new city center.
At the newly created Hundeplatz, the dogs would look in some sort of false direction. A smaller Hundeplatz would also be possible, leaving space for commercial development, sustaining the lively BerlinA happening. As urban developments should no longer be dependent on governmental or community funding, in order to put forward and discuss a realistic scheme, one that might be easily implemented, it would be important to think a scheme along the lines of private development.

[1]  Monika Zimmerman, ‘Die Mitte der Mitte’, Der Tagesspiegel, January 7, 1996.

[2]  See Hermann G. Pundt, Schinkel´s Berlin. A Study in Environmental Planning (Cambridge, MA: 1972).

[3]  See Peter Springer, Schinkels Schloßbrücke in Berlin. Zweckbau und Monument (Berlin: Propyläen Verlag, 1981), S. 60-67.


Tags for this post:
berlin schloss square

0 comment(s)
Blog posts   << Previous post | Next post >>