10 Reasons why we should rebuild the Potsdam Palace to house the Landtag (Parliament of the Federal State of Brandenburg)

1. What functions did the Potsdam Palace once have?

  • First and foremost, it was a political “business card”.  The Potsdam Palace was a way for the poor and underprivileged principality of Brandenburg to prove its intention and ability to be one of the major players in Europe.  The spectacular success of this attempt to rise above provincial mediocrity has proved it right;
  • A means of jump-starting the economy in and around Potsdam;
  • A job-creation program;
  • A design model promoting the exports of local craftsmen;
  • A place for continuing education, encouraging people to improve;
  • A center of cultural life (opera, theater, concerts);
  • An academic center (Academy of the Sciences, Voltaire, Alexander and Wilhelm von Humboldt);
  • Accommodations for guests of state, an administrative center, a center for tourism;
  • The Potsdam Palace was always a public building!

2. Only very few buildings in Brandenburg have this high an international standing as works of art as the castle designed by von Knobelsdorff, the famous architect of Prussia.  Some historians and researchers even say that it outranks the Berlin Palace.  It was a building that transcended the fads and fashions of its day, and one whose beauty was and continues to be accessible to all generations.

3. No other building in all of Brandenburg has witnessed so many historical events marking the history of Europe.

  • Potsdam Edict of Tolerance;
  • Abolition of torture;
  • School education compulsory for all children, an early “No child left behind” initiative;
  • Abolition of serfdom, Stein-Hardenberg reforms;
  • Early precursors of a constitutional state, introduction of the Allgemeines Landrecht (general state laws), officials with a strong ethos who were resistant to bribery;
  • “In my states, everyone may find his salvation in his own way” (“In meinen Staaten soll ein jeder nach seiner Facon selig werden”);
  • Emancipation of Jews;
  • Peace conferences, from 1709 until 1913.

4. No other building in Brandenburg has been visited by so many famous historical personages, scientists, researchers and artists

5. Why reconstruct the Palace for the state parliament, the Landtag?

  • Because it is the right location for the purpose.  It was here that the fate of the principality of Brandenburg was decided, in many instances.  This is where future decisions should be taken.
  • Nearly all German parliaments at the Land level reside in historical buildings.
  • The German national Bundestag has its offices and assembly in the Reichstag building.
  • Nearly every nation in Europe now houses its parliament in buildings that, historically, had a similar function.

6. Would that be looking back, an expression of nostalgia?

  • The answer is a very clear “no”.  Ever since antiquity, all peoples and nations have reconstructed buildings that served to define their identities in order to give their future a new base.  In all of Eastern Europe, the reconstruction and re-design of such buildings is a central issue in the societal discourses of many nations.
  • The reconstruction of Warsaw has been recognized as a world heritage site.  In Vilnius, the Renaissance palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania is being restored and will open in 2010 as the national museum, also housing cultural venues.  In Paris, considerations are under way to reconstruct the Tuileries palace.  The castles of St. Petersburg have been rebuilt; some continue to be rebuilt, without any discussion whatsoever.
  • In Germany, many cities are working to heal the wounds torn by World War II and the destruction caused by the “demolitionary reconstruction” of the post-war era.  The cities of Dresden, Frankfurt am Main, Wesel, Halle, Nuremberg, Leipzig, Halberstadt are some of those that have pursued reconstruction projects.  Interestingly, the majority of these projects’ backers are young people.

7. Were Potsdam to construct a new building, or mix various styles, Potsdam and Brandenburg will miss out on a societal trend of our time.  People do not come to Potsdam to see steel and concrete; they want to see art and experience history.

8. Is this sort of a reconstruction project at all possible?

  • The answer is very clear: yes.  Provided of course that this is done carefully and painstakingly and in accordance with the rules for the maintenance and rehabilitation of monuments.  The interior of the building must be in harmony with its façade.
  • There is hardly a building destroyed of which so many original parts still exist.  (What will happen to them if an entirely new building is put up?)
  • More than 600 photographs are available, taken to scale, that show the minutest details and the exact dimensions of the building.  The matrix of the Palace’s façades, the genetic code as it were, has been preserved.

9. Costs

  • To be sure, reconstructing the historic façades will entail additional costs.  These covered by private donations, such as the Hasso Plattner foundation. The initiative of offering “shares” in the Potsdam Palace has shown that the chances of obtaining sufficient funding are good.  This would mean that the resolution passed by the Land Parliament on May 20th, 2005 could be implemented.  Not a single citizen will make a donation towards the construction of a new building for the Landtag.
  • The amount of € 120 million corresponds to the costs of approximately fifteen kilometers of Autobahn.  The train station to be built underneath Berlin-Brandenburg International Airport will cost three times that amount.

10. Benefits

  • Constructing the historical façades will mean that jobs in the qualified craft trades will be secured.
  • The funds would stay in the region.
  • Let’s look at Dresden: the reconstruction of the Frauenkirche was a success, and gained Dresden renown all over the world.  The marketing effect this had for Dresden, as a location for businesses and a tourist destination, cannot even remotely be translated into money.  The inner city is being reconstructed, with historic buildings as guiding structures.  Real estate prices have tripled and, in some instances, quintupled.  Neumarkt, until recently a square of fallow land, has been reclaimed as an urban center with an Italian flair.  Or let’s look at Frankfurt/Main the apartments and businesses in the reconstructed Krönungsweg were leased or sold within quite a short time.  Potsdam can replicate these success stories with its palace.
  • Just as was the case with the Frauenkirche in Dresden, a Land parliament moving into the palace could bring about a change of mood, towards a more positive outlook both in the city and in the federal state.  The Potsdam Palace will provide an opportunity for Brandenburgers to develop a positive sense of identity, a sense of pride in what they have achieved, and will be a means of making peace with their history.

Dr. Hans-Joachim Kuke, Verein Potsdamer Stadtschloss e.V.
Translation: Samson-Übersetzungen GmbH