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German parliament approves plan for unification memorial in Berlin

“Unity seesaw” is to be unveiled in 2019 in front of the city palace

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The German parliament approved plans to build a Memorial to Freedom and Unity in central Berlin, with an ambitious timetable that envisages the monument’s inauguration on the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 2019.

Designed by the Stuttgart-based architect Johannes Milla and the Berlin choreographer Sasha Waltz, the monument will commemorate the protest movement that toppled the East German communist regime and led to the reunification of Germany in 1990. 

The memorial is a steel bowl-shaped construction, 50 metres wide and 18 metres across, that can hold as many as 1400 people. If at least 20 more people stand on one side than the other, it rocks gently. Already dubbed the “unity seesaw” by Berliners, its official name is “Citizens in Motion” and it is designed to illustrate how people have to act in concert to effect change.

The German Bundestag, or lower house of parliament, first approved the construction of a memorial in 2007 and Milla’s design was announced the winner of a competition in 2011. But last year, parliament’s budget committee scrapped the plans on cost grounds: the monument’s price-tag had increased by a third to €15m. A new motion to build it was approved by a clear majority of the lower house on 1 June.

“The fact that the people in the German Democratic Republic brought down the Socialist regime with no bloodshed merits a visible sign of recognition,” says Germany's culture minister Monika Grütters.

The monument is to be positioned in front of the Berlin city palace, which is currently undergoing reconstruction and will house the Humboldt Forum, envisaged as a centre of education and research on the natural world and world cultures.