I was already enjoying the mild psychogeographical effect of Nigerian beers at Karneval when I noticed this peculiar monument on Mehringplatz. It seemed very much at odds with the little understanding of classical orders that I salvaged from architecture school. A column with mild entasis but without capital and anything to support but the sweet, cannabinoid May air. It fit perfectly in the context of carnival and the suspension of the everyday it creates.
The vacant symbolism of a column bulging under the weight of nothing made me think of the Stadtschloss. There had been recent news of the snags the project had hit. With public enthusiasm waning into mild boredom, it is increasingly unlikely that the target of 80 mil. in private donations required for the construction of the cupola and the baroque facades will ever be met. Apparently, the budget in place only allows for the construction of the castle’s bare concrete core. It’s ironic that the representational center of Berlin would then be filled with a building not that different in aesthetic from the gutted Palast der Republik aesthetic it was meant to dispel.
Which brings back to mind the Stadtschloss competition entry by Kuehn Malvezzi, vindicated by these developments. I found an English translation of Philip Oswalt’s very insightful discussion of the conundrums of this whole undertaking and of Kuehn Malvezzi’s entry here. Their entry plays on the dire financial reality of the Stadtschloss project and turns them into a concept. Their phased proposal was to first construct a stripped down castle out of brick that could persist on its own, to which the baroque facade could be added later, once funding allows. With almost clairvoyant foresight, it omits the cupola altogether.
The botched undertaking of plonking a castle cum cupola on the Palast site in order to erase any memories of a building with associations that, in the eye of some, continue to taint our history like an oil slick, is fast turning the Stadtschloss into an architectural Deepwater Horizon that is now, debt crisis and all, increasingly revealed as the castle in the sky pipe dream that it always was, to many of us. The Prussian turd might just be sinking.