»Tradition is a dare for innovation.«

Alvaro Siza

Blog Building of the week

Zombie Palace

The afterlife of the Palast der Republik

  • Eyes of the undead: bronze-glass façade panels from the Berlin′s Palast der Republik used by Benjamin Bergmann in his work: The Dream of Something Big (Der Traum von einer großen Sache), 2008. (Photo: Benjamin Bergmann) 1 / 15  Eyes of the undead: bronze-glass façade panels from the Berlin′s Palast der Republik used by Benjamin Bergmann in his work: The Dream of Something Big (Der Traum von einer großen Sache), 2008. (Photo: Benjamin Bergmann)
  • The Palast der Republik, Berlin, 1977. (Photo: Istvan) 2 / 15  The Palast der Republik, Berlin, 1977. (Photo: Istvan)
  • Pile of steel in front of the Palast der Republik during demolition, 2007 (Photo: DDP) 3 / 15  Pile of steel in front of the Palast der Republik during demolition, 2007 (Photo: DDP)
  • The demolition of the Palace continues, with nearly all the steel stripped off, ready for shipping, 2008 (Photo: imageshack) 4 / 15  The demolition of the Palace continues, with nearly all the steel stripped off, ready for shipping, 2008 (Photo: imageshack)
  • Zombie Palace no. 2: rendering of reconstructed Stadtschloss. Demolished in the 1950s as an imperialist symbol, the Palast der Republik replaced it, and has now in turn bitten the dust. (Image: Förderverein Berliner Stadtschloss) 5 / 15  Zombie Palace no. 2: rendering of reconstructed Stadtschloss. Demolished in the 1950s as an imperialist symbol, the Palast der Republik replaced it, and has now in turn bitten the dust. (Image: Förderverein Berliner Stadtschloss)
  • The Burj Khalifa, Dubai, which contains 1600 tonnes of steel from the demolished Palast. (Photo: Bildagentur Huber / Gräfenhain) 6 / 15  The Burj Khalifa, Dubai, which contains 1600 tonnes of steel from the demolished Palast. (Photo: Bildagentur Huber / Gräfenhain)
  • Steel from the Palast also went to moulds engines blocks in Vokswagen cars. (Photo:Volkswagen) 7 / 15  Steel from the Palast also went to moulds engines blocks in Vokswagen cars. (Photo:Volkswagen)
  • Palast-Transfer, Bandol, France, 2008. Artist Fred Rubin's mini-me version of the Palast der Republik, incorporating some of the facade panels of the original. (Photo: Schlossdebatte) 8 / 15  Palast-Transfer, Bandol, France, 2008. Artist Fred Rubin's mini-me version of the Palast der Republik, incorporating some of the facade panels of the original. (Photo: Schlossdebatte)
  • Further glass-panels from the Palast façade were incorporated into the PlattenPalast, a research project at the TU Berlin of Claus Asam with wiewiorra hop architects. (Photo: Thorsten Klapsch) 9 / 15  Further glass-panels from the Palast façade were incorporated into the PlattenPalast, a research project at the TU Berlin of Claus Asam with wiewiorra hop architects. (Photo: Thorsten Klapsch)
  • Amir Fattal's work: “The last time you fell, who was there to catch you?”, 2011, has a mould of a baroque carving from the Stadtschloss, lying under one of the 1001 lamps from the Palast's lobby. (Photo: Amir Fattal) 10 / 15  Amir Fattal's work: “The last time you fell, who was there to catch you?”, 2011, has a mould of a baroque carving from the Stadtschloss, lying under one of the 1001 lamps from the Palast's lobby. (Photo: Amir Fattal)
  • The lobby of the Palast der Republik with its alleged 1001 lamps, which earned it the nickname “Erich′s lamp shop”, after the East German leader Erich Honecker. (Photo: Incroyable) 11 / 15  The lobby of the Palast der Republik with its alleged 1001 lamps, which earned it the nickname “Erich′s lamp shop”, after the East German leader Erich Honecker. (Photo: Incroyable)
  • Now you see them... the Palast der Republik's lobby in 1996. (Photo: Christian von Steffelin) 12 / 15  Now you see them... the Palast der Republik's lobby in 1996. (Photo: Christian von Steffelin)
  • Now you don't... the Palast der Republik's lobby in 2004. (Photo: Christian von Steffelin) 13 / 15  Now you don't... the Palast der Republik's lobby in 2004. (Photo: Christian von Steffelin)
  • To mis-quote the classic Scotch video tape advertisments from the 1980s: Re-recycle... (Photo: Christian von Steffelin) 14 / 15  To mis-quote the classic Scotch video tape advertisments from the 1980s: Re-recycle... (Photo: Christian von Steffelin)
  • ...not fade away. 15 / 15  ...not fade away.

Dead buildings no longer seem to lie in peace. Take the former Palast der Republik in Berlin. Bits and bobs of this showcase building of the East German state – which contained its Congress Hall, as well as restaurants, bowling alleys discotheques and cinemas – have turned up worldwide, from skate parks to skyscrapers, in artworks and in cars, living on: metamorphosed. As a coda to our Berlin issue, uncube traces the global scattering of the building’s fragments.

Commodity prices can help give new value to defunct old buildings, a profitable afterlife through recycling. After the controversial demolition of Berlin’s Palast der Republik from 2006-9 – now shortly to be replaced by a simulacrum of the baroque Stadtschloss of the German Emperors which had previously stood on the site – the city harvested 25,000 tonnes of steel from the structure.

Pile of steel in front of the Palast der Republik during demolition, 2007 (Photo: DDP)

Steel has a substantial value on the commodity market as a raw material for construction, and the perpetually underfunded city did what any city would: it sold the surplus. As the building was dismantled, its steel girders and other elements were transported to a smelter in Kreuzberg and turned back into raw steel, ready for reuse.  Reduced down to market-precious metal, the bones of the Palast der Republik were shipped to a commodity dealer in Istanbul, and then exported to construction projects worldwide, most notably to be used in the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Somehow the incorporation of material from the East German government’s showpiece into the Emirates’ bragging right to tallest-building-in-the-world seems appropriate, since both buildings have been used to symbolize the supposedly egalitarian-nature of their respective societies, but within rigid limits and for the right people.

Amir Fattal's work: “The last time you fell, who was there to catch you?”, 2011, has a mould of a baroque carving from the Stadtschloss, lying under one of the 1001 lamps from the Palast's lobby. (Photo: Amir Fattal)

Further steel from the building has been used to make Volkswagen engines, whilst other materials were reutilised, including the granite slabs now lining a skate park at Tempelhof in Berlin. Meanwhile smaller elements, fixtures and fittings from the building have been adopted by artists as raw material in their work: culturally-loaded fodder for historical and political reference. The most popular element unsurprisingly perhaps has been the glass of the bronze-reflective windows, seen in work by artists such as Fred Rubin and Benjamin Bergmann, appearing like the undead eyes of the ghostly Palast.

Palast-Transfer, Bandol, France, 2008. Artist Fred Rubin's mini-me version of the Palast der Republik, incorporating some of the facade panels of the original. (Photo: Schlossdebatte)


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