Humboldt Forum
© Stiftung Humboldt Forum im Berliner Schloss / Stephan Falk
Montage Serliana. Stiftung Humboldt Forum im Berliner Schloss / Stephan Falk

August 24, 2017

4 + 4 = 2

by Hans-Dieter Hegner and Bertold Just

Now that the Palace facade has been rebuilt on the Lustgarten side, Berlin has two reconstructed Gate 4s.

On 9 August this year, the Lustgarten facade of the Humboldt Forum was completed with the fixing of Gate 4’s Venetian window. The construction team was able to start plastering the masonry surfaces and plumbing on schedule. Berlin now has two reconstructed Gate 4s: one is on the Lustgarten side of the Palace facade, although this is still under scaffolding and thus not yet visible; the other is known as the Liebknecht Gate on the old State Council building. This was reconstructed at the beginning of the 1960s to commemorate Karl Liebknecht’s declaration of the “Socialist Republic of Germany” from the balcony of Gate 4 during the November Revolution in 1918.

Historical photograph of the Serliana. © Stiftung Humboldt Forum im Berliner Schloss
Serliana of the "Liebknechtportal" on the façade of the former State Council Building.  © Stiftung Humboldt Forum im Berliner Schloss / Bertold Just

The Liebknecht Gate contains original parts: Gates 4 and 5 were only minimally damaged during World War II, and a few elements even survived the detonation of the building in 1950 and were salvaged by sculptors. Missing or damaged sections were supplemented as part of the reconstruction work, albeit not true to the original form. The idea was to take a different approach for the Humboldt Forum project. In 2010, scans were made of original sculptural elements from the Liebknecht Gate, which were then used to produce full-size 3D prints. Details which no longer exist in the original form were reconstructed using historical photos and templates made by model makers. The prints that were reworked in this way then served stone sculptors and stonemasons as reference points for measuring the new sandstone copies. The work took a year to complete.

Serliana. © Stiftung Humboldt Forum im Berliner Schloss / Bertold Just
Installation of  the Serliana. © Stiftung Humboldt Forum im Berliner Schloss / Bertold Just

The gate in its entirety is a true heavyweight. At 18 metres wide and 29 metres tall, the arch of the gate spans 6 metres above the window and up to its crowning bronze imperial orb and cross measures approximately 7 metres high. For the gate alone over 60 tonnes of Saxon sandstone were required, as was the case for the original. Care was taken to ensure that the same joining cuts were used where possible. The fixing masons used traditional fixing methods, with the exception of the masonry anchors which today are made from standardized stainless steel.

So now Berlin really does have two reconstructed Palace Gate 4s. Thanks to the authentic reconstruction of the facade of the Humboldt Forum, once the scaffolding has been removed it will be easy to spot the differences to the gate on the State Council building, for example in the position of the arms on the pilaster figure of Winter, or the lack of an eagle cartouche under the balcony of the first floor on the Liebknecht Gate.

The Venetian window

The motif of the Venetian window, also known as a serliana, was developed in the Renaissance from the triumphal arch structure of ancient times. It comprises one central and two lateral windows. The central window is taller and crowned with a transom window known as an oculus. On the Lustgarten facade of the City Palace there were two such Venetian windows of different widths. On Gates 4 and 5 their sculptural decorations were particularly sumptuous: crowns, helmets, cartouches with eagles, trombone-playing eunuchs and genii, capitals and festoons. Just as impressive are the two Hermes pilasters on each gate, which carry the balcony under the serliana. They represent the four seasons: Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. The remaining original fragments of the Spring and Summer pilasters have been restored and integrated into the facade.

Hans-Dieter Hegner
is chief technology officer for the Stiftung Humboldt Forum im Berliner Schloss

Bertold Just
is head of the Palace Workshop, for the Stiftung Humboldt Forum im Berliner Schloss

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