At the beginning of the 18th century, the Berlin Palace, designed by Andreas Schlüter was the most important secular Baroque building north of the Alps. With the Berlin Palace as the Humboldt Forum, all of the surrounding historic buildings including the Berlin Cathedral and the Altes Museum at the Lustgarten as well as the Boulevard Unter den Linden will re-gain their urban orientation.
The art and cultural treasures on Museum Island are being augmented in exemplary fashion by the non-European collections in the Humboldt Forum, the Site Museum, the Humboldt Laboratory and the Berlin exhibition, creating a venue for culture and dialogue that spans the globe.
There is a remarkable incongruity between the building’s exterior and its contents: whereas the dominant prejudices of the past once encouraged museums to concentrate solely on military power, today culture and research takes top priority. Where Roman-influenced autocratic architecture once reigned supreme, non-European cultures have found a new home, too. These exhibits are nod to the Palace’s former Wunderkammer, or cabinet of curiosity.
In the summer of 2002 the German Bundestag passed a resolution to reconstruct the Berlin Palace as the Humboldt Forum. A large cross-party majority followed the recommendation of the international commission of experts known as "Historic Centre of Berlin", which advocated a museum, knowledge and meeting centre in the footprint and with the baroque facades of the Berlin Palace.
Following these guidelines, the Italian architect Professor Franco Stella won first place in an international competition in 2008. With the "Palace Forum", a pedestrian passage that passes through the building, he repurposed the structure and its courtyards as new public places for the city. On the side facing the Spree, the building will feature a modern facade.