Redesigning the Berlin Palace @ Kathimerini

In Berlin, revivals of historic symbols and contemporary ideas on the transnational cultural development tie into the under construction Humboldt Forum.

Green Emperor
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In the heart of the city, opposite the Museumsinsel (Isle of Museums), the Humboldt Forum is the ambitious project that revives the exterior of the Kaisers’ palace establishing a cultural center of international renown, which will house, from 2019, next to the various ethnographic collections and the museum the city also a venue dedicated to the “Dialogue of Cultures”. Founding artistic director is Neil McGregor, former director of the British Museum in London.

This project has caused an intense debate in bias point, as it involves issues of national symbols, the international role of the city and of cultural supranational networks, and generates alongside rivers of ideas. One of these is the architectural proposals of the Greek architect Elizabeth Sikiaridi, which, with her office Hybrid Space Lab, presents until end of April in Ephraim Palais, in the center of Berlin, two projects for under-construction facade of the Humboldt Forum.

“Our projects give a more extrovert, more modern and more environmentally friendly form to the Humboldt Forum building and are representatives of the contemporary trend of ‘hybrid’ architecture that incorporates vegetation in built environment, fusing nature and architecture,” says Elizabeth Sikiaridi.

The funds for financing the Humboldt Forum facade have not been covered yet. This means that the possibility of consultation for alternative proposals are still remains open.

The two proposals of Elizabeth Sikiaridi, which have received wide publicity in the German press, are the «Humboldt Jungle» and «Humboldt Volcano». The first one with the slogan “Jungle instead of concrete!” suggests the greening of the facade with vegetation referring to the Amazon explorer Alexander von Humboldt. The second one, «Humboldt Volcano», introduces as an extension of the palace a type greenhouse-pavilion with a vertical tropical garden. “The greenhouse with the hanging gardens refers to the – pioneering for its time – discoveries of exotic flora and volcano explorations by Alexander von Humboldt. The proposed “Humboldt Volcano” pavilion opens the palace to the public space, enhancing the extravert character of the building of the Humboldt Forum”, says Elizabeth Sikiaridi.

Trained in Paris and Germany, and with international experience, Elizabeth Sikiaridi installed since 2008 in Berlin, where her office of deepens/works in two axes, the think tank and design lab, focusing mainly on cultural space issues, contributing variously to the public debate.

“The Humboldt Forum offers a venue for the exchange and discussion of international cultural developments,” says Elizabeth. “In this central part of Berlin, the cultural identity of modern Germany will be expressed in the context of the international intercultural relations and of the natural environment where it is embedded. Both our projects strengthen and emphasize this dimension of the Humboldt Forum.”

At the site where Humboldt Forum is being built (which takes its name from the Humboldt brothers, one of whom, Wilhelm, was the founder of the Berlin University) stood the palace of the Prussian imperial family. It was bombed during World War II and after the GDR decided its demolition. In its place, the regime built a modern box, which was also demolished after German reunification.

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