Reconstruction of the bauakademie in berlin: schinkel should remain schinkel

Disagreed on how it should be used – united on the question of its external form: a discussion with building senator on the design of the Bauakademie.

Soon it will no longer consist only of scaffolding: the Bauakademie, here on the right behind the palace dome Photo: dpa

When photos, illustrations and drawings of the building, which was demolished in 1962, are shown at events about Karl Friedrich Schinkel’s Bauakademie, the level of excitement in the audience rises every time: the red profane brick building from 1836, the ideal cube and the beautiful terracotta decoration – Schinkel’s architecture is still considered the icon of 19th-century modernism.

On Wednesday evening at the Haus der Berliner Stadtbibliothek, the organizers – the Verein Berliner Wirtschaftsgesprache and the Architekten- und Ingenieurverein zu Berlin (AIV) – once again used these means in a high-level discussion on the topic of "Bauakademie – Was und Wie? According to the architectural historian Peter Lemburg in his introductory lecture, the media’s remembrance of "Schinkel’s revolutionary building" was also intended to set the direction of the reconstruction. For this direction – modern versus original – has been open to date.

Since the German Bundestag approved the sum of 62 million euros for the construction of a new Bauakademie in the vicinity of the Humboldt Forum in November 2016, "we are happy here about the wonderful gift," as Katrin Lompscher said on the podium. But Berlin still has to reach an agreement with the federal government on the "concrete content, form and sponsorship," according to the building senator.

The agreement does not seem to be easy, Lompscher let slip. The "financial backer and builder, the federal government," plans to announce an "architectural competition for the Bauakademie" on its own initiative in the summer of 2017. The utilization concepts are also to be examined by the Federal Foundation for Building Culture, "of which we don’t know what will come out of it," as Hans Kollhoff, architect and chairman of the "International Building Academy" initiative, noted.

In order to counter these many unknowns, Kollhoff continued, Berlin must come up with a coordinated concept for the use of the future Bauakademie as well as a "clear stance on reconstruction."

But this is precisely what seems difficult in the city, as the disunity of the debate showed. There is covetousness: Hermann Parzinger, president of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, defended his idea of a large modern architecture museum on Wednesday. For Lompscher, it was important that the "Berlin reference" be reflected in the programs and architecture exhibitions. Kollhoff, on the other hand, and likewise Wolfgang Schuster, AIV board member, focus on the internationality of an architecture center. Quo vadis Bauakademie?

When it came to the question "How much Schinkel must be in the rebuilt Bauakademie?" the participants in the round were rather unanimous. The reminder pictures had an effect. Especially since Thomas Kohler, director of the Berlinische Galerie and advocate of a modern variant of reconstruction, was absent from the podium due to illness. "Something new cannot be the subject of the competition; the Bauakademie can only be rebuilt where and how it was," Kollhoff stated defiantly conservative.

Hans Kollhoff, architect

"The Bauakademie can only be built as it was".

Lompscher also advocated incorporating "as much Schinkel as possible" into a reconstruction; the "red box" meant a landmark for the city and its architectural history. The fact that Parzinger suggested in the end, in view of a new utilization concept, to allow "cutbacks in the interior" – that is, to seek a compromise between old and new – was then lost. Schinkel reloaded remained the motto.

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