Few applications to build Berlin City Palace

As of now, only 158 architecture firms have joined the international competition to build the Berlin City Palace, the Prussian royal palace that was damaged by allied bombing and torn down by East German authorities.

From 1973 to 1976, Erich Honecker, the then head of East Germany, built Palace of the Republic where the royal palace used to be. Palace of the Republic was a modernist building that housed the East German parliament. In 2003, it was removed because of asbestos contamination.

The Berlin City Palace will be rebuilt with its traditional façade and a modern interior. Project organizers expected around 1,000 applications. Around 10 percent of the applications come from outside of Germany.

“With this, we can start with the first phase of the competition right away,” Vera Moosmayer, speaker for the Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Affairs told the Berlin daily, Berliner Morgenpost. The next leg of the competition entails 30 to 40 architecture firms being chosen to present a detailed draft of their ideas. The winner will be chosen at the end of November 2008.

Many well known, prestigious architecture firms from around the world have submitted applications. The speaker would not make the applicants’ names public. This is in part due to the anonymous process, where the names are hidden from the judges to ensure impartiality.

As to why so there were so few applicants, Moosmayer can only guess, “The formulation of tasks is so complex and the requirements are high.” Architecture firms can only apply if they have an annual sales volume of at least €300,000 or employ four architects. Architects have cited the high demands and complexities of the project as a reason that many architecture firms shied away from the competition.

The committee overseeing the decision process says it is not too worried about the low turnout. “At the end, we only need one suitable applicant,” Andreas Kübler, spokesman for the Federal Office of Architecture, told the Berliner Morgenpost. City development senator Ingeborg Junge-Reyer of the centre-left SPD party also told the Berlin daily, “The quantity of participants says nothing about the quality.”