Some of the world’s best known architectural icons were built hundreds of years ago. Most of them were restored at some point of time. These great symbols of culture and artistic expression have interesting stories behind their construction, destruction in parts and the eventual restoration.
The effort and passion associated with the restoration and conservation of these monuments reflect their countries’ love and sense of pride.
One of them is Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany.
Berlin’s most magnificent gate, complete with rich sculptures, was conceived as a Gate of Peace in 1788. Yet, for the next two hundred years, political developments around that gate and in central Europe was anything but peaceful.
The imposing gate, which formed part of Berlin’s toll boundary at the end of the 18th century, has provided a backdrop to victors and vanquished, emperors and dictators, and flags and armaments.
This earliest example of classical German architecture has been a powerful political symbol ever since Napoleon’s time. In the more recent past, it served as a poignant reminder of the division running through Berlin. So much so, that opening of the gate was seen as an act of unification in 1989 when Germany united.
The experts have compiled a catalogue of all repairs and modifications throughout its chequered history. With the most recent restoration project completed in 1991, just in time for its 200th anniversary, the monument now stands resplendent in all its former glory.
There are two lessons to be learnt for a city like ours from this example. The first one is the easier of the two. Our heritage belongs to us and not to any heritage commission or archaeological survey and, therefore, need to be preserved by us for our own benefit. The second is we have to build today what can be a matter of pride tomorrow.
The author is an architect and urban designer