This article is part of the feature „The Berlin Palace 2.0. Concrete and Baroque

Berlin from above

5 min read

What could be more pleasant than watching the sun go down over the city on a balmy summer evening, enjoying a cool drink and reflecting on the memorable exhibitions and stimulating lectures in the Humboldt Forum or discussing them with family and friends? Throughout the year, the new restaurant on the roof of the Berlin Palace will be a popular spot in the Humboldt Forum to pause and enjoy the view over the rooftops of Berlin.

There was nothing in the original plans however, to provide the option of making the Palace roof accessible to the public, or even putting a restaurant there. The architects were given the proverbial task of “making an omelette, but not breaking any eggs”. An especially delicate touch was required for the exterior design of the restaurant facade, since the roof superstructure was not allowed to block the view of the reconstructed Palace facades from Unter den Linden, but had instead to provide a view from above over the magnificent boulevard and the buildings around the Lustgarten.

Thanks to its modest height, the discreet facade design with its light-coloured concrete elements, and the historical reconstruction of the mighty sandstone balustrade at the edge of the roof, the overall appearance of the Palace is not overly impacted. In fact, it is only at a distance of several hundred metres that the restaurant becomes visible at all, and then only as a narrow strip above the line of the roof.

Although it can seat a good 130 guests, the restaurant occupies only part of the space on the Palace roof. It is surrounded by a wide walkway allowing visitors to view the copper-clad saddleback roof at close range. The south-facing roof of the building’s west wing will also be open and accessible to visitors.

The building makes no attempt to pretend that the Palace has been here all along.

The contrast between reconstructed historical and modern facades in the Schlüter Courtyard, the adjacent passageway, the Humboldt Foyer, the large entrance hall to the west and of course the mighty modern facade facing the Spree all clearly identify the Palace as a newbuild. The building makes no attempt to pretend that the Palace has been here all along. Rather, it recalls – painfully, in the view of some observers – the country’s tragic history in the twentieth century. And this is true also of the north-west corner facing Unter den Linden.

But it is precisely this dichotomy between the old and the new that gives the Humboldt Forum im Berliner Schloss its unique status among comparable European exhibition venues and museums in Paris, London or even Bilbao. In this sense, the roof restaurant may provide stimulus for discussions on a balmy summer evening above the rooftops of Berlin …

Photo by Bernhard Wolter
Bernhard Wolter

Bernhard Wolter studied German language and literature, political science and architecture. From 2009 until 2021 he was a member of the Stiftung Humboldt Forum im Berliner Schloss, heading the the Press and Public Relations Office.