Deutsche Bank is reopening Prinzessinnenpalais on Unter den Linden as an exhibition space. Inaugural director Svenja von Reichenbach explains the new PalaisPopulaire’s “anti-interior design”.
Nestled between the Staatsoper and the Kronprinzenpalais on Unter den Linden is the Prinzessinnenpalais building, home to Deutsche Bank’s latest cultural offering to Berlin: PalaisPopulaire. Opening on September 27, the new 750sqm exhibition and event space’s name is meant as a nod to its broad focus which goes beyond contemporary art and will also include events around sports, technology, music and literature. The 19th-century building they chose is a point of interest in itself: designed by architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel, it was originally constructed for the Prussian royal household and had a brief life as the Schinkel Museum in the 1930s, before it was bombed in World War II. Rebuilt in the 1960s, the Bauhaus-trained GDR architect Richard Paulick reinstated its historic façade, but insisted on a contemporary modernist interior. After reunification the building received a further historic makeover to its interior. Deutsche Bank’s Berlin-based architects Kühn & Malvezzi have chosen to strip its interior to the precast concrete of Paulick’s 1960s design: an interesting choice given the controversial historical pastiche reconstruction of Berlin’s Schlösser like the nearby Humboldt Forum. PalaisPopulaire’s inaugural director Svenja von Reichenbach, previously director of Deutsche Bank’s Kunsthalle, took some time to explain the redesign and plans for the building.
How did the PalaisPopulaire come to be in this particular building?
The building was previously used as a restaurant serving the neighbouring Staatsoper’s audiences, but had been closed for five years. We found its history appealing, it’s a very interesting building: it has the whole history of Berlin in it. It was commissioned by Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm III who wanted to move the royal family closer to the people. First the Kronprinzenpalais was built and he moved there with his wife. Then, as their family grew he had the Prinzessinnenpalais built to accommodate their children. During WWII, it was almost completely destroyed – only a few parts of the outer façade remained. The building rubble was cleared, but first they took positive moulds of what was left intact. The site stood empty from then until the early 1960s, when under the GDR the city of Berlin’s wish to have it rebuilt was finally fulfilled.
Deutsche Bank’s architects decided to reinstate the concrete modernist interior – why?
The story of the building’s destruction and re-construction will form part of the narrative of our exhibitions. Augmented reality and moving image displays will tell visitors about the history of the building. Also, by using an “anti-interior design” concept with our architects, we really want visitors to be able to experience and feel the building by juxtaposing the historic exterior and minimal modernist interior.
What can people expect to see in this newly opened space?
Numerous exhibitions from the Deutsche Bank Collection, one of the biggest corporate art collections in the world, the first of which is The World on Paper. This show will contain over 300 works from our collection. Exhibitions from the collection will be complemented by events linked to the culture and sports programmes we support, such as live music performances from the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, readings linked to the Deutscher Buchpreis, sports debates and lunchtime lectures. On the ground floor we will have a museum shop and a café that spills out onto the terrace and garden.
The World on Paper, Sep 27-Jan 7 | PalaisPopulaire, Mitte