Humboldt Jungle @ Die ZEIT

Berlin discusses a big idea: the Humboldt Dschungel.

It is the idea to elicit from the bold cultural monster, the Humboldtforum, something more playful, rampant, outlandish…

Is Humboldt Jungle the better Humboldt Forum?

Publication Is this the rescue?, Dr. Werner Bloch @ DIE ZEIT, Nr. 9/2016, Germany, 18 February 2016

Is this the rescue?

Berlin discusses a great idea: the Humboldt jungle

The jungle, designed as a mind-blowing computer visualisation, has an amazing effect. Flocks of birds, tropical forests over Berlin, plants, animals, and South America refer to Alexander von Humbolts explorations. Even the innocent visitor already suspects from outside that the interior will be no ordinary museum …

The walls grew unexpectedly quickly. Unexpectedly fast now the doubts grow. Nobody knows what is going to happen here and in the newly built Stadtschloss zu Berlin, the most important cultural project of the federal government. What is the Humboldt forum good for? Even the top adviser of the project, the initially cheered curator Neil MacGregor, does not want to disclose his plans – if he has any.

The more surprising the proposal, which has been circulating for some time in the back rooms of Berlin, triggers great enthusiasm and is now being published here for the first time on a regional basis. It is the idea to elicit something playful, rampant, crazy from the cultural monstrosity that is so defiant. If the initiators are concerned, the hitherto hollow-eyed project could soon be transformed into a Humboldt jungle.

The castle, as it stands today, offers to the east a huge uniform concrete wall. On the remaining facades, thousands of stone slabs with baroque motifs and embellishments are to be installed. These plates are made by robots in Italy, whereupon the king of the reconstruction project, Willem von Bodien, is particularly proud. It was just this terrific reaction to the jungle concept with the planned greening of the roof and parts of the façade: “This idea is so good that you have to argue against it, otherwise the Berliners want to keep it,” he said in an internal presentation.

The idea of the Greens deputy Notker Schweikhardt and the communication expert Uta Belkius have boosted. The Berlin architects’ office, Hybrid Space Lab, took up this suggestion and immediately transformed the proposal into something larger. “We said: No, we do not make a traditional town greenery, it’s super boring. This is how the idea of the jungle originated. Humboldt has more to do with the jungle in our heads than with the university or the castle, “says architect Frans Vogelaar.

The design of such a jungle, inflated as a computer image, has a stupendous effect. Birdwarmers, tropical forests across Berlin, plants, animals, and South America seem to be playing on Alexander von Humboldt’s voyages. And even the unscrupulous visitor is aware of the fact that no ordinary museum awaits him inside. The ethnological collections, which are to be found on the upper floors, are given their own signal.

Another advantage: the Humboldt jungle would be considerably cheaper than the Prussian facade, which has so far been planned, and the funding of these funds still lacks 50 million euros. And whoever thinks that the tropical plants would surely dwindle in the winter of Berlin will be referred to a famous example: the Musée du quai Branly by Jean Nouvel in Paris. This museum, with its ethnological collections, is also endowed with a biological outer skin that grows and thrives.

Is the Humboldt jungle the better Humboldt forum? Many see it so, even in the highest circles of the Berlin Senate is now occasionally heard that this proposal is “the salvation of the Humboldt Forum”. And the commercial board member of the Humboldt Forum, Johannes Wien, has already a picture of the computer-generated fusion of the jungle and the castle on his desk.

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