Henrike Naumann


The work Ruinenwert (ruin value) features an architectural model of the German Chancellery in a state of almost total destruction. The model of the ruin will be presented in one of two neon-lit vitrines, of the type commonly found in pedestrian zones in 1950s West Berlin. The vitrine, which will be placed near the traffic lights at Hansaplatz, is painted in the same green that is used for the interior cladding of the Chancellery, a car paint from Porsche (LM6Y/33N).

The term “Ruinenwert" was coined by the architect Albert Speer, who used the concept of ruin value as the underlying principle for his Nazi architecture. Like the buildings of ancient Rome, which still function as witnesses of a former power, the idea was that the monumental buildings of the Nazi era would transport their zeitgeist throughout the ages, even once they fallen into ruin.

By displaying the Chancellery – built in the postmodernist style with glass fronts and exposed concrete – the image conveyed is not simply of the failure of Western democracy. The concept of “ruin value” is employed ironically, exhibiting precisely the type of rusty ruin that according to “the theory of ruin value” would certainly fail to convey heroic values.

When the Hansaviertel was almost entirely destroyed in WWII it created a space to realize visions of a fresh start for society and urban planning – and also to create an alternative concept to the socialist architecture on Stalinallee in the east of the city. In a speech held in 1949 Ernst Reuter outlined the principles of the district’s new design: “Berlin must become a display window for freedom, but also a display window for economic prosperity.”

The Federal Chancellery is one of the largest government districts in the world. It is part of the assembly of buildings known as the “Band des Bundes” (Federal Belt) that symbolizes reunified Germany: an alternative to the north-south axis designed by Albert Speer as the centrepiece of the “world capital Germania”. The Federal Chancellery thus occupies an area on the banks of the Spree where, according to Hitler’s plans, there would have been a passage joining the “Führerpalast” with the “Große Halle”. Against a background of these layered visions of the city, the federal Chancellery as a ruin is an image from the future – after the failure of democracy in Germany. The symbolism of the intersecting historiographies will be reinforced by placing the vitrine on an area of public space near the intersection. Hansaplatz will again become a place for projecting political perspectives.