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Haus der Kulturen der Welt


Cultural Buildings



Cultural life was revived in the ruins of Berlin immediately after the end of the war. The will to build up a democratic society where culture was to play a central role led to an atmosphere of  political unrest, which was fostered by the Allies, until East and West went their separate ways in 1947.  Most cultural buildings were in the East of the city. In the West, the Marshall Plan and  funding for Berlin from the German state promoted the cultural upswing. Large sums of money from the US were used for construction projects such as the Henry Ford building and the library of the newly  established Freie Universität (Free University), the Amerika-Gedenkbibliothek (American Memorial Library) and the Congress Hall in Tiergarten.  In 1952 the Schillertheater was reopened. The Theater des Westens served as a venue for the Städtischen Oper (Municipal Opera) until this was able to move into Fritz Bornemannís new building on Bismarckstraße in 1961. Bornemann created another elegant functional building at the beginning of the sixties in the form of the Freie Volksbühne (Free Peopleís Theatre). The Academy of Music  Concert Hall designed by Paul Baumgarten had also been available for musical events since 1954.  The central cultural buildings of Berlin were to stretch along the River Spree as a cultural belt from the Museumsinsel (Museum Island) to the West. On the basis of this concept, resulting from the urban development competition for the capital in 1957/58, the decision was taken to build the new Philharmonic designed by Hans Scharoun in the Tiergarten district. The construction of the Wall put paid to the idea of the cultural belt, and when the Philharmonic was completed in 1963, it was further away from the centre. The area for the Cultural Forum was developed with the aid of the Prussian  Cultural Heritage Foundation. In 1963 Hans Scharoun won the competition for the new Staatsbibliothek (State Library). At the same time, he came up with an overall concept for the Cultural Forum. With asymmetric buildings and curving forms, it is based on the model for the cityscape and thus  embodies a democratic response to the urban planning of the Nazis, who had envisaged monumental  forums and parades there. In 1965 it was decided to expand the Cultural Forum by building museums. Scharoun, who designed the Musical Instruments Museum, shaped the Cultural Forum with his buildings. The architecture and overall concept are in line with the social democratic ideal of allowing wide sections of the population to participate in cultural life. This applies to most of the cultural buildings of the post-war era and they bear witness to the emergence of a democracy.