city in space - berlin - locations

Berliner Congress Center - BCC

Public Buildings

Solitary buildings in the city fulfil more than one purpose: they are representative, they can express power, they can be used for identification and orientation purposes, or they may be an integral component of urban design. Solitary buildings are symbols that say something about the occupiers. Public buildings often stand alone.  In 1950 Walter Ulbricht, first secretary of the Socialist Unity Party, planned to create  a characteristic image for East Berlin’s city centre, by means of monumental buildings. There was  to be a large square with a central building on the main thoroughfare from Stalinallee to the Brandenburg Gate. The idea of a central building, a "House of the People", originated in the twenties. The competition for restructuring the centre of East Berlin took place in 1958 and also promoted the dominant features of urban development. But none of the blueprints submitted received a majority vote. Instead the proposal by chief architect Henselmann to build the (urgently needed) television tower in the city centre was accepted. Visible from afar, it symbolised the progress of the GDR from 1969 onwards.  The idea of a "people’s house" led - veiled in ideology - to the Palace of the Republic, which added the final touch to the government forum on Marx-Engels-Platz in 1976. There were already two solitary buildings there: in the early sixties, the State Council building had been erected, which was honoured to have the portal of the former Royal Palace because it was from the palace balcony that Karl Liebknecht had proclaimed the "Free Socialist Republic" in 1918. It was also where the GDR Foreign Ministry, completed in 1967 and demolished after reunification, was located, constructed at an angle to the West and thus forming an architectural frame for the centre of East Berlin.  At the same time as the Philharmonic in West Berlin, two adjacent buildings, the "Haus des Lehrers" (House of Teachers) and Congress Hall emerged in the East. Their characteristic forms point not only to the architectural and technical potential of the GDR, but can also be seen as the beginning of a change in values: a move away from the compact, Stalinist city in favour of urban development of the modern age.  The ICC built in West Berlin in the seventies is often described as a counterpart to the Palace of the Republic. The similarities are in the size, the state-of-the-art rooms and the combin-ation of culture and politics in the building in the East and culture and commerce in the building in the West. In their own architectural language, both buildings express power, wealth and technical perfection. The Palace of the Republic now stands for a social system of days gone by.