Almost 150 years ago, Schloss Biesdorf was built by the royal architect Heino Schmieden as a two-storey, classicist villa with an octagonal tower. Later developed by the Siemens family, who expanded the surrounding landscape park, the estate became property of the city of Berlin in the late 1920s. After a fire almost completely destroyed the upper storey, the property was provisionally repaired in the 1950s and used as a local cultural centre.
A full restoration of the building was finally made possible through financial support from the city of Berlin, using funding from European Union and the Berlin lottery foundation. In September 2016, after extensive planning and the historical restoration of the upper floor, the ZKR – Centre for Art and Public Space opened in Schloss Biesdorf.
An illustrated history of Schloss Biesdorf
2016: Schloss Biesdorf emanates echoes of its former glory. The upper floor has been reconstructed, the park replanted. The façade has been painted pink, the interior white. As if nothing had happened, as if it had always been like this. But what did transpire here? Which events led to its construction, destruction and reconstruction? Who lived, served, researched, destroyed, rested and entertained here? What fortunes and miseries have befallen this historical location?
With the aim of reconstructing the building’s history, artist Laleh Torabi, cultural historian Alexandra Nehmer and media expert Christian Hiller set out to find its traces in archive material. The result: Many historical testimonies have disappeared or lie undiscovered. But now they are returning to the surface, and want to reassume their place within the villa. They have manifested themselves on the walls; the history of Schloss Biesdorf, rendered in black and white.
Despite being based on archival notes, Laleh Torabi’s illustrations depict the building’s history in the form of illusion rather than fact. Numerous threads link the villa’s history to wider historical contexts, and through (re)constructing these events, a glimpse into its future is revealed.