Art on the construction site at the Humboldt Forum: although only on a temporarily basis, the large-format installation was on display for the first time on the occasion of the 250th anniversary of Humboldt’s birthday.
Each of the letters that Ralf de Moll and Christiane Dellbrügge mounted on the wall of the 180-square-metre foyer to the Humboldt Forum’s event rooms measures half a metre in height. They form a lofty and memorable band of text that adorns the walls all around the room much like a frieze: “The Architects”. The letters spell out the first names of all of the architects who have worked at the site of the Berlin Palace. They reflect the location’s as well as the building’s 600 years of history, from the Renaissance palace designed by Konrad Krebs, the Baroque transformation under Andreas Schlüter, the construction of the Palace of the Republic, and the palace’s reconstruction under Franco Stella.
Political and social epochs, claims to power and prestige, destruction, courage and reconstruction have determined a changing history that has played out at Schlossplatz. The jury of the “Kunst am Bau” competition conducted by the German Federal Office for Building and Regional Planning on behalf of the building owner, Stiftung Humboldt Forum im Berliner Schloss, unanimously recommended the realization of this project. “The straightforwardness of the letters underscores architect Franco Stella’s rationalism,” the awarding jury said. “The names both reflect the history of the building and open it to the future.”
The artist team of Christiane Delbrügge and Ralf de Moll worked on the 110 monumental letters for three months. They designed the font, created the moulds, cast the letters in concrete and installed them in the foyer of the Berlin Palace. Their search for an ideal material for the letters led them right back to Schlossplatz and the concrete foundations of the Palace of the Republic. The worn concrete pieces were pounded to rubble and six tonnes of coarse-, medium- and fine-grain concrete was delivered to Delbrügge’s and Moll’s workshop. They used this recycled concrete to produce sans serif letters in the Antiqua style, known as the classic typeface of architects, sculptors and engineers, who, throughout the periods of classicism and rationalism, used linear majuscule fonts for their designs and building plans.
Delbrügge and de Moll have thus created a frieze which incorporates the history of architecture and at the same time locates it in the here and now. Name after name, strung together without gaps, encourages this string of letters to engage in dialogue with the history of the site. But it also is a source of confusion, for it is possible to make out other words and names in the stream of letters: “old”, Anna or Johanna, for example. This was explicitly pointed out by the predominately female jury. The reinterpretation, the with hierarchies and ways of seeing, is the very embodiment of the Humboldt Forum’s wish to serve as a venue for experiences, learning and encounters, which can be experienced starting in September 2020.
Andrea Brandis is an editor and lives in Berlin.