Francesca Ferguson, MAKE_SHIFT (ed.)
In Berlin, across from the Museuminsel (Museum Island), one finds the newly rebuilt Humboldt Forum, housed in a replica of the Berlin Schloss, a fixture of the German and Prussian imperial past that was bombed during the Second World War and then replaced by the government of the German Democratic Republic (DDR), the former East Germany with the Palast der Republik in 1976. After the Palast der Republic was torn down in 2003, the ongoing reconstruction of the palace facade has been fraught with controversy, with a public discussion centering around the international role of Berlin, national and historical symbols and how to confront Germany’s colonial history.
The polemical, arresting image of the Humboldt Volcano is a spatial-conceptual insertion into this conversation from Berlin-based Hybrid Space Lab studio as they work to open discursive and positive visions for the Forum and the city. With the slogan “Jungle instead of concrete!’; a radical greening of the facade is proposed, a not-so-subtle reference to the geographer and naturalist Alexander von Humboldt. The project and its vibrant imagery were developed in 2015, when the financing for the Forum’s facade had not yet been secured – meaning that the possibility of consultation for alternative proposals was still open. Proposing a crystalline architecture, the volcano refers to German traditions that have op-posed the palace and its power structures. And standing in for a pluralistic multiculturalism, it enables the appropriation of the building, forcing it open towards the city, the international public and its own history.
Hybrid Space Lab unleashed and subsequently curated a heated discourse around this utopian proposition. The combination of tabloid-friendly imagery with international expertise on greening cities and climate change proved to be a highly effective strategy.