Standing on Museum Island on the site where Berlin Palace had stood for over 500 years, the Humboldt Forum is set to become one of Germany’s leading museums and cultural centres. It was designed by Italian architect Franco Stella who has contrasted the modern east-facing façade with three reconstructed baroque palace façades on the Forum’s north, south and west sides. These echoes to the site's regal past continue inside, where a huge exhibition space explores three core themes – the history of the site, the Humboldt Brothers after whom it is named, and colonialism and coloniality – as well as providing a venue for other artistic, cultural and educational exhibitions.
In the 16th century the Berlin Palace housed a Kunstkammer, or 'Cabinet of Curiosities', which developed into a museum after WWI. Having been badly damaged during WWII, the ruins were eventually knocked down in the 1950s and East Germany’s Palace of the Republic built in its place. In 2008, that edifice was also demolished and work began on the current building. The thousands of objects from around the globe that made up the original Kunstkammer collection now form the nucleus of today’s museum.
The Forum also pays homage to the von Humboldt brothers, two remarkable men of their era – amongst his many accomplishments, Wilhelm founded the University of Berlin, while younger brother Alexander was a naturalist and prolific explorer who had many geographical features named after him, including a current! The impressive 30-metre high foyer not only features the reconstructed Eosander Portal, designed by architect Eosander von Göthe in the early 18th century, but also a hi-tech Media Tower with details of the daily programme, another fabulous juxtaposition of the ultra-modern and classical tradition.
The upper floors house the Asian Art Museum (founded 1906) and the Ethnological Museum (founded 1873), with holdings comprising around over 500,000 ethnographic, archaeological and cultural historical objects from Africa, Asia, America, Australia and Oceania.
The complex also includes two shops and five restaurants, cafés and bistros and a roof terrace offering panoramic views over the city, while the surrounding green areas have been planted to follow Alexander and Wilhelm von Humboldt’s travels. When it is fully open, all the public areas will be accessible for visitors seven days a week around the clock. Take a trip Beyond the Iron Curtain
, which begins in Berlin, to experience the Humboldt Forum.