The cornerstone was laid for the Berliner Schloss in mid-June but without the support of German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, and surrounded by criticism that the palace is an unnecessary and expensive project.
Nearly €500 million of the €590 million construction cost was agreed by the German parliament three years ago, with the city of Berlin promising an additional €32 million. The remainder is to be raised by the Humboldt Forum Foundation from private donors but so far pledges are below target.
The Berlin Palace replaces the old Prussian seat of the Hollenzollern kings and then the 19th-century German emperors. After the German defeat in world war one it was transformed into a museum. The building was then badly bomb-damaged in world war two and finally demolished in 1950 to make way for the East German parliament. After the reunification of East and West Germany plans for its reconstruction became a symbol of the united Germany but it is often looked on as just a West German project.
The design for the new building, which is located in exactly the same spot as the old one on Museum Island, is by Italian architect Franco Stella and on three sides its mirrors the original baroque. However the façade, facing the River Spree, is modern concrete and glass and it is this that has caused much of the controversy. A recent poll by the magazine Stern showed that 65 per cent of Germans oppose the project.
The new building, which should be finished by 2019, will house the non-European parts of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, the regional and city library and part of Humboldt University.