A new Beginning
The reconstruction of St. Matthew’s Church
After the war, St. Matthew’s Church found itself in ruins in a no man’s land. Almost nothing remained of the old Tiergarten district. Only the ruins of the so-called “Haus des Fremdenverkehrs” (House of Tourism) – remnants of Speer’s “Germania” plans – still stood to the east of the church, as well as individual buildings of the old Tiergarten district such as Villa Parey or Villa Gontard.
For a long time, it remained unclear what was to become of the church: The congregation considered both demolition and a modest community center building. After negotiations with the Berlin State Conservator Hinnerk Scheper, who favored a historical reconstruction, the congregation decided in favor of reconstruction and – after rejected variants of the architect Erich Splitt as well as the director of the Kirchliches Baumtes Curt Steinberg – commissioned the Berlin architect Jürgen Emmerich: reconstructed on the outside in the version of Friedrich August Stüler – modernized on the inside.
When the rebuilt church was consecrated on May 28, 1960, the Protestant Bishop Otto Dibelius made a historical bow: “Let the new beginning made today be a beginning like the first one was!” Just as the church heralded the beginning of a new neighborhood when it was built, so the rebuilt structure was to become the cornerstone of a new neighborhood.
A little later, the Kulturforum grew: First the Philharmonie (1963), then the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) (1968). Little by little, a new West Berlin cultural quarter emerged-now on the outskirts of the city. The construction of the Berlin Wall from August 13, 1961, made the nascent Kulturforum a cultural “outpost” of West Berlin – on the horizon the dream of a reunified city.