Essential Architecture-  Berlin

Berliner Stadtschloss


Johann Friedrich Eosander von Göthe


Fisher’s Island, now known as Museum Island Museumsinsel, Berlin




Protestant German Baroque




  Demolished to make way for the DDR Parliament Palast der Republik, currently being rebuilt.
  The Stadtschloss in the 1920s
  The Berliner Stadtschloss in a 19th century painting and Karl Liebknecht proclaims the German Free Socialist Republic at the Berliner Stadtschloss, 9 November 1918 (Mural, Hochschule für Musik, Berlin)
Berliner Stadtschloss

The Berliner Stadtschloss (English: Berlin City Palace), was a royal palace in the centre of Berlin, capital of Germany. It was the principal residence of the Kings in and of Prussia from 1701 and of the German Emperors from 1871. Following the fall of the German monarchy in 1918 it became a museum. It was severely damaged by Allied bombing in World War II and was demolished by the German Democratic Republic authorities in 1950. Following the reunification of Germany, it is proposed to rebuild the Stadtschloss.

History to 1871
The German word schloss is usually translated as “castle,” and the Stadtschloss’s name is a reminder of the origins of the building, as a fort or castle guarding the crossing of the River Spree at Cölln (a town later absorbed by neighbouring Berlin). The castle stood on Fisher’s Island, now known as Museum Island. In the 15th century this castle became the residence of the Margrave of Brandenburg, and in 1443 Frederick II “Irontooth” demolished the old castle and laid the foundations of a new palace. The main role of the castle and its garrison in this period was establish the authority of the Margraves over the unruly citizens of Berlin, who were reluctant to give up their mediaeval privileges to a centralised monarchy.

In 1538 the Margrave Joachim II “Hector” demolished the palace and engaged the master builder Caspar Theiss to build a new and grander building in the Italian Renaissance style. After the Thirty Years War (1618-48) Frederick William, the “Great Elector,” embellished the palace further, employing the services of the leading architect Johann Nering. In 1699 Frederick I (who took the title King in Prussia in 1701) engaged the architect Andreas Schlüter, who planned to rebuild the palace in the Protestant baroque style. In 1706, he was replaced by Johann Friedrich Eosander von Göthe, who submitted plans for an even grander palace.

King Frederick William I, who became King in 1713, was interested mainly in building up Prussia as a military power, and dismissed most of the craftsmen working on the Stadtschloss. As a result, Göthe’s plan was only partly implemented. Neverthless, the exterior of the Palace had come close to its final form by the mid 18th century. The final stage was the erection of the dome in 1845, in the reign of Frederick William IV. The dome was built by Friedrich August Stüler after a design of Karl Friedrich Schinkel. Thereafter only smaller changes in the palace’s exterior took place. Major work took place inside the palace, however, engaging the talents of George Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff, Carl von Gontard and many others.

The Stadtschloss was at the centre of the Revolution of 1848 in Prussia. Huge crowds gathered outside the palace to present an "address to the king" containing their demands for a constitution, liberal reform and German unification. Frederick William emerged from the palace to accept their demands. In March 18 a large demonstration outside the Stadtschloss led to bloodshed and the outbreak of street fighting. Friedrich Wilhelm later reneged on his promises and reimposed an autocratic regime. From that time onwards many Berliners and other Germans came to see the Stadtschloss as a symbol of oppression and “Prussian militarism.”

Later history

 In 1871 King William I was elevated to the status of Emperor (Kaiser) of a united Germany, and the Stadtschloss became the symbolic centre of the German Empire. The Empire was, however, at least in theory a constitutional state, and from 1894 the new Reichstag building, the seat of the German parliament, came to rival and overshadow the Stadtschloss as the centre of power. Following Germany’s defeat in World War I, William II was forced to abdicate both as German Emperor and as King of Prussia. In November 1918 the Spartacist leader Karl Liebknecht declared the German Socialist Republic from a balcony of the Stadtschloss, ending more than 400 years of royal occupation of the building.

During the Weimar Republic parts of the Stadtschloss were turned into a museum, while other parts continued to be used for receptions and other state functions. Under the Nazi Party regime of Adolf Hitler, which disappointed monarchist hopes of a Hohenzollern restoration, the building was largely ignored. During World War II, the Stadtschloss was twice struck by Allied bombs: on 3 February and 24 February 1945. On the latter occasion, when the air defence and fire-fighting systems of Berlin had largely been destroyed, the building was struck by incendiaries, lost its roof and was largely burnt out.

The end of the war saw the Stadtschloss reduced to a blackened shell, although the building was structurally sound and could have been restored, as many other bombed-out buildings in central Berlin were. But the area in which it was located was with the Soviet Union’s zone of occupation, and later in the communist German Democratic Republic. The communists had more urgent priorities than rebuilding palaces, and they saw the Stadtschloss as a symbol of Prussian militarism, although some parts of the building were repaired and used from 1945 to 1950 as an exhibition space. Between September and December 1950, therefore, the building was demolished, with only the balcony from which Liebknecht had declared the German Socialist Republic being preserved. The empty space was used as a parade ground.

In 1964 the GDR built a new Council of State building on part of the site, incorporating Liebknecht’s balcony in its facade. From 1973 to 1976 the regime of Erich Honnecker built a large modernist building, the Palast der Republik (Palace of the Republic), which occupied most of the site of the former Stadtschloss. Just prior to German reunification in October 1990 this building was found to be contaminated with asbestos and was closed to the public. After reunification the Berlin city government ordered the removal of the asbestos, a process which was completed by 2003. In November 2003, the German federal government decided to demolish the building and leave the area as parkland pending a decision as to its ultimate future. Demolition started in February 2006 and is scheduled to be completed in mid 2007.

Plans for reconstruction

Since 1991 many Germans have advocated the rebuilding of the Stadtschloss. Some have supported a complete rebuilding, while others have suggested that the exterior facades be rebuilt, with a modern building behind them. Lobby groups such as the Society for the Berliner Schloss (Gesellschaft Berliner Schloss) and the Promotional Association for the Berliner Schloss (Förderverein Berliner Schloss) were formed, and in 2001 these came together as the Stadtschloss Berlin Initiative. These groups have prepared detailed plans for rebuilding the Stadtschloss and for its use after reconstruction. They argue that the rebuilding of the Stadtschloss would restore the unity and integrity of the historical precinct of central Berlin, which includes the Berliner Dom, the Lustgarten and the museums of Museum Island.

There are also many Germans who oppose this proposal: some advocate the retention of the Palast der Republik on the grounds that it is itself of historical significance, while others argue that the area should become a public park. Opponents of the project argue that a new building would be a pastiche of former architectural styles, would be an unwelcome symbol of Germany’s imperial past, and would be unacceptably expensive for no definite economic benefit. They also argue that it would be impossible to reconstruct accurately the interior of the building, since neither detailed plans nor the necessary craft skills are available. In view of these considerations, most importantly the likely immense cost, successive German governments have declined to commit themselves to the project. In 2002 and 2003 cross-party resolutions of the Bundestag supported at least a partial rebuilding of the Stadtschloss, but no definite decision had been made by 2006.

 The best place of Berlin, the capital of Germany, will be available for new construction projects, when the German parliament decided during Thursday, to demolish the old parliament building of DDR. The final decision was easy, even when the story of the building has been a long and hard. The bundestag followed the unanimous decision, that the different parliament groups had decided already in the culture committee.

- Only the PDS, that follows the old tradition of the East-German communist party, was against the fast decision. The whole demolition job will cost around 20 million euros and it will change the cityscape strongly in Berlin. The land that will be then free along the Spree riverbanks, tells a many different stories about the German history. The area, where now stands the old parliament building of DDR, will have a park, until the financial situation will allow the construction of the old Prussian King's castle. The new building, that would serve as a culture center, will cost around 570 million euros. The detailed plans are at the moment open, as Berlin does keep inside many similar places.

- The East-German leaders, blew up the old King's castle soon after they gained power. The old King's castle was famous for it's baroque style and the whole structure stretched along few blocks. The communist regime did repair a lot of old and historical buildings in East-Berlin, but thought the castle, that was occupied by the Prussian King's and the last German emperors, to be a symbol of militarism. The new German parliament did decide to build the replica of the old castle in June 2002, but the project is still waiting for the private investors.

- When thinking about the construction engineering, the decision was inevitable. The most important building in the former DDR, is now just a empty and damaged shell and everybody, be it the people who oppose the demolition plan or those who favor it, describe the building as an disgrace. The building was left empty, shortly after Germany united again. It was pointed out that it's full of asbestos and so it needed to be closed. The cleaning job however was not finished completely, although the interiors have already been demolished, like the meeting hall.

- The people who demand the building to be demolished, said in the first place, that it's not about the republic or about the building. On the other hand, the people who oppose the demolition plan, say that this only shows, that Berlin wants to get rid off the memory of the DDR. Many of the people from East-Berlin remembers the different cafeterias and dance hall that had a rotating floor. Those people who think correctly when it comes to politics, point out, that this building after all, is the one where the last parliament of DDR assembled and decided to end their state.


Baroque Edifice Once Again to be Focal Point of City

The reconstruction of the Berlin city palace (Stadtschloss) in the historic center of the city is another step closer to becoming reality. The parliament has voted in favor of a proposal that calls for the reconstruction of the baroque facade on three sides as part of a building that fills the footprint of the former structure, a space that has been for the most part a void in the city landscape for half a century.

Supporters of the reconstruction say it will restore balance and architectural integrity to the heart of the city. With the demolition of the palace under the communist regime of the East in 1950, the city’s grand boulevard, Unter den Linden, lost its anchor and the cathedral and Lustgarten their visual counterpoint. With the decision of the parliament on July 4 to support the conclusions of a government-appointed commission, the Palast der Republik built by the German Democratic Republic on part of the palace grounds is slated for demolition. A critical point still to be determined is how the reconstruction, expected to cost as much as $600 million, will be financed, though discussion centers around a public-private initiative. In any case, work is not set to begin before 2005 with completion in 2010 or so.

From 1443 to 1918, the Stadtschloss, as it is known, was home to Brandenburg’s Markgrafen and Kurfürsten, Prussian kings and German Kaisers. It went through many revisions and additions over the centuries. The building began to acquire the appearance for which it is remembered in 1699 under palace architect Andreas Schlüter who, among other changes, added five decorative portals to the long horizontal facade. Schlüter’s successor, Johann Friedrich Eosander von Göthe, also left his imprint on the structure, completing the addition of wings around the western courtyard and designing what became known as the Eosander portal, which was not completed until the mid-19th century. The dome of the royal chapel, completed in the mid-1800s, dominated the western front and could be seen for miles. The wings of the rectangular building enclosed two large courtyards. Records indicate that the palace had 1,210 rooms and a total area of 23,800 square meters.

The Palast der Republik, former home of the East German parliament, is slated to be torn down.

After the exile of the last Kaiser and beginning in 1920, the building was used as a museum and for offices. In 1945 it was largely destroyed in a fire, though a shell remained. As with all of Berlin’s historic center, the palace was in the eastern side of the city. In 1950, largely for ideological reasons, the communist government demolished the remains of the structure, preserving only the portal from which Karl Liebknecht in 1918 declared the “Free Socialist Republic.” GDR architects incorporated this element into the Council of the State building, an otherwise modern-style building completed in 1964 that overlooks the former site of the palace. In 1976, the Palace of the Republic, a glass-enclosed edifice that housed the GDR parliament, was completed on part of the site. While this building is to be destroyed to make way for the reconstructed city palace, the room where the parliament met may be preserved and incorporated into the project.

Reconstruction Movement
Serious talk of reconstructing the city palace began almost immediately after the fall of the wall in 1989, and it quickly became a point of controversy. Some opponents of reconstruction say such a project is too expensive, others decry the recycling of the baroque style in a time when people may no longer relate to it, and still others were more enticed by the idea of a blank space in the center of the city on which one could create something completely new.

With Berlin's return to capital-city status, the debate gained in urgency. In November 2000, the federal government and the Berlin Senate called together an international commission of experts to make suggestions for the future use of the site. The commission delivered its conclusions more than a year later in April 2002. In addition to the construction of a structure on the historic footprint of the old palace, the commission calls for the site to be home of a "Humboldt Forum," a combination of cultural and scientific institutions and programs allowing for public dialogue and interaction.

Supporters of the reconstruction of the historic facade believe the Bundestag decision will make private fundraising easier. Donors are more likely to be moved by reconstruction of a baroque-style building than by the construction of a modern one, says Wilhelm von Boddien, who has made several international fundraising trips, including two to the US, most recently in April 2002. The Hamburg-based businessman and major initiator of the reconstruction effort hopes to raise 200 to 250 million euros for the project worldwide under the slogan, "Become a Palace Owner."


The head of an association promoting the reconstruction of the palace (Förderverein Berliner Stadtschloss), von Boddien has most recently used high-tech means to stimulate interest in the project. A CD-ROM film allows users to view the structure from all angles in full color as it would have looked more than 200 years ago. And in 1993, von Boddien made his dream virtual reality by erecting, over the former GDR parliament building, a full-scale canvas printed to look like the old palace facade. He hopes one day in the not so distant future to see the building in stone.