Alfred Hagemann (Berlin): A new building with a history. On dealing with the site’s history at the Humboldt Forum

The ground where the Humboldt Forum was built has been the clashing point of heated architectural debates in recent decades. At its core the discussions focused the question of what role architecture plays in the construction The ground on which the Humboldt Forum was built has been the hotspot of heated architectural debates in recent decades. At its core, the discussions focused on the question of the role architecture plays in the construction of identity(ies) in societies and of the interactions that exist between the form and use of a building, also on a symbolic level.

The vigour of these debates can be explained by the history of this special, symbolically charged site in the centre of Berlin. In the past century especially, it was increasingly radically reappropriated: the conversion of the Royal Palace after the 1918 revolution, the demolition of the ruins in 1950, emptiness, twenty years of design dispute, the new construction of the Palace of the Republic in 1973-76, decay, twenty years of dispute, demolition until 2008 and finally the new construction of a partial reconstruction of the Palace as the Humboldt Forum from 2013-2020.

Every generation was forced to adopt a stance on the history of the site – both during the creation of the GDR’s State Forum in the 1960s and 1970s and from 1990 onwards, in the debate about the reconstruction of the Berlin Palace, on the significance of the Palace of the Republic, on the cross, the inscription, and the use of the site for colonial non-European collections.
What role does the examination of history play in such a place, behind the copied facades of a palace? The lecture will shed light on the approach developed for the four permanent exhibitions at the Humboldt Forum and how further programmatic work can be shaped.

Alfred Hagemann is the head of the History of the Site Department at the Humboldt Forum Foundation in the Berlin Palace since 2018. His team is responsible for four permanent exhibitions and develops events, programmes, special exhibitions and publications on the history of the site where the Humboldt Forum stands today.
After completing his doctorate at the Technical University of Berlin as part of the graduate programm Art Studies – Building Research – Monument Preservation. Hagemann was an employee of the Stiftung Preußische Schlösser und Gärten Berlin-Brandenburg from 2005 to 2018. There he curated a number of cultural-historical exhibitions, e.g. the exhibition Frauensache at Charlottenburg Palace (2015), which for the first time comprehensively illuminated the role of female protagonists at the Brandenburg-Prussian court, or Friederisiko on the occasion of the 300th birthday of Frederick II of Prussia at the Neues Palais in Potsdam (2012). The permanent exhibition in Schönhausen Palace (2009) dealt intensively with the palace as both a site of courtly culture and a site of remembrance of GDR history. Questions about the (architectural) artistic forms of representation and the spatial structuring of power in different times and systems were the focus of interest, which are also of central importance in the Humboldt Forum under very special conditions.