Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin: A Treasure Trove of Knowledge

Amazingly, while in 2020-2021 Berlin was pretty much out of reach for tourists from abroad, quite a few projects were finished. My Blog will feature them all so you can include them into your plans for your Berlin visit! 

After long years of constructions all along Unter den Linden, Berlin’s royal boulevard at last is getting worth a walk again. Among the projects finished is Staatsbibliothek, the National Library building next to Humboldt University. It’s one of those buildings typical of Kaiser times, designed by Wilhelm II.‘s favourite architect Ernst Ihne around 1900. Given the number of buildings destroyed by allied bombings in world war II, quite a few of Kaiser time examples survived. So massive were they constructed to fit into the Kaiserreich’s self-concept that their chance of survival was comparatively high.

Staatsbibliothek, however, was hit hard by bombs that destroyed the impressive reading hall in the building’s center, including its dome. In East German times storage capacities were erected there and readers were stuffed into smaller reading halls around the building. But by now, there is a central reading hall again, very modern and very elegant.

As to the outside, the building was nicely restored. When strolling up and down Unter den Linden, do not miss to enter the cosy courtyard featuring a fountain and ivy on the walls – and benches to take a rest. Without needing a member pass, you may even enter to see how grand the reader are being welcomed by an impressive staircase leading up to literature’s olympus. If you make it into the new reading hall located in a modern glass cube, one striking remnant is on display there: The remains of a clock which did tell the readers how time flies. It was found in the rubble and still shows the moment when the bomb hit the building: 22.24 hrs on a winter evening in January 1944.

Like with so many institutions, due to Berlin’s divide there is two national library buildings. The western one, at cultural forum just off Potsdamer Platz, is a gem of modern architecture, designed in the 1960s by Hans Scharoun who also created philharmony building. Inside, it’s organised in many open levels, and once there, you lose track of time: The lighting is done in such a fashion that you just don’t realise when it get’s dark outside. Reading keeps enlightened at any time of day.