Italian-designed "palace" to rise on Berlin site

Fri Nov 28, 2008 2:01pm EST
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By Josie Cox

BERLIN (Reuters) - Italian architect Francesco Stella has been chosen to design a new 552-million euro ($715 million) baroque-style palace on the spot where Berlin's 15th century "Stadtschloss" stood until it was destroyed in 1950.

The historic site in the heart of the German capital, where the ultra-modern East German communist parliament stood from 1976 to 1990, is being cleared of the final remains of the controversial "Palace of the Republic."

"It wasn't an easy decision," German construction minister Wolfgang Tiefensee said in announcing on Friday that Stella's design had been chosen from more than 100 bids, ending a heated 18-year battle about what to do with the site.

"It's such a sensitive building and there's so much history," said Tiefensee, himself an easterner. "But the decision we've made is anything but a lousy compromise."

The facade of the new building -- a reconstruction of the original baroque building -- will be complemented by a modern and functional interior, Tiefensee said.

"The architectural plans, which will only be presented to the public at the beginning of December, also represent a link between Berlin's culture, science and society," he added.

Built by the Prussians, the original palace was bombed by the Soviet Army during World War Two and demolished by East German communists in 1950. Fired by ideology, they destroyed the building because they believed it glorified Prussian traditions.

East Germany's Communist ruler Walter Ulbricht once declared it "a decadent symbol of Prussia's militaristic past."   Continued...

<p>A combination of two pictures shows (top) the last remains of the former East German parliament building the Palace of Republic (Palast der Republik) in Berlin, November 26, 2008 and a file picture (bottom) of the same location in January 4, 2006. REUTERS/Staff</p>