Published  24/07/2002

Kaiser Bill still


Great yawns have greeted the seemingly inevitable decision voted through by the German Parliament, in their Foster-designed high-tech redoubt at the Reichstag, to rebuild the 18th century Baroque palace of the German Emperors. Yawns, since the simulated, temporary pneumatic version that delighted visitors to the site a decade ago, was the only contemporary answer to this historicism. The massive, megalomaniac 18th century Berliner Stadtschlosse had been reduced by allied bombing and finally demolished to be replaced under East Germany, by the so-called People’s Palace. This, in turn, is now a crumbling remnant of ‘glasnost’; neither of the two monstrous buildings should be remembered, and the great open site released for cultural use. Surprisingly however, Chancellor Gerhard Schroder has supported this move to bring back an edifice of Prussia’s monumental past. If Buckingham Palace had been successfully reduced by the wartime German bombs that hit, it is unlikely that there would have been much surge to rebuild as before. That too would have released a site suitable for a modern reincarnation of royalty, complete with new galleries. In Berlin can be anticipated a new version of the long-cherished Parkinson’s Law that institutions past their prime (in this case the Berlin economy) build major monuments in their sunset. The 24 billion of debt incurred by the city fathers can be commemorated by a ‘white elephant’ that exceeds in stupidity even that of President Ceasescu’s Bucharest Palace. Why not just do another blow-up job (i.e. an inflatable memory installation?)

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