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A national monument’s splendor is restored

TÜV SÜD’s contributions to Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate

The Brandenburg Gate was covered during its renovation in 2001. The quadriga was later removed using a crane so that it could be restored.
Photo: action press

Up close to the quadriga, restoration specialists use a lifting platform to reach the monument’s four-horse chariot and remove the green-hued oxidation.
Photo: ddp images

October 2002 saw a festive occasion when fashion designer Willy Bogner unveiled the Brandenburg Gate after it had been renovated for a total cost of four million euros.
Photo: ddp images

It took two years – from 2001 to 2002 – for historical building experts to restore Germany’s symbolic monument at the heart of Berlin. From the base of the columns all the way up to the quadriga, TÜV SÜD’s building experts were involved in all aspects of the renovation.

No other structure in Germany is imbued with as much symbolism as the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. Built at the end of the 18th century by Frederick William II, King of Prussia, this Neoclassical strucutre served as the backdrop to many fateful moments throughout German history. During the East-West division of Germany, the Berlin Wall’s infamous death strip ran right across the square in front of the Gate. Since reunification, Germany likes to celebrate moments of national importance in front of the famous columns. For example, the German national soccer team celebrated their homecoming after the World Cup victory in 2014 at the Brandenburg Gate.

TÜV SÜD’s expertise significantly contributed to the monument’s restoration. From the first to the last stone, TÜV SÜD’s building experts were closely involved with the Gate’s renovation. “It really was a one-of-a-kind experience. It was fascinating, and a lot of fun,” recalls TÜV SÜD’s Robert Julius Becker. Beginning with analyzing the planning documents, to creating a complete renovation plan as well as providing our experts’ support for conservation work, and concluding with the final acceptance of the project, TÜV SÜD was always involved. The Brandenburg Gate’s restoration was contracted by the Berlin Foundation for Monument Protection.

Over the last few centuries, the historical structure suffered greatly on multiple occasions.

Over the last few centuries, the historical structure suffered greatly on multiple occasions. During World War II, the building as well as the quadriga – the chariot statue located atop the Brandenburg Gate – were severely damaged. Repair work that had been done during the days of the GDR was undertaken with rather inadequate resources. To repair the damage, the experts employed a number of high-tech tools. They used laser equipment to clean the sandstone exterior, to remove stains, and to renew the large steel bands that hold part of the structure's sides and roof together.

Maintaining quality control is vitally important to successfully manage such a project. Renovating historic monuments requires extensive analysis and an examination of all the planned measures while keeping the complex structural demands in mind. That's the best way to preserve the historical substance and to ensure the project is cost-effective.

During the renovation work, the quadriga, which weighs many tons, was lifted off the building with a hoisting crane and painstakingly restored. The supporting Doric columns were thoroughly repaired as well. Conservators took care of all the areas that had been damaged by the elements and exhaust fumes. Where rainwater had penetrated the walls, entire areas were professionally dried – from the foundations to the top floor.

Breakfast at the Brandenburg Gate

TÜV SÜD engineer Robert Julius Becker remembers many special moments: “From the top, we had a gorgeous view of Berlin. That was great – we would go up there in the morning and have a quick breakfast with a view, and then we’d get going.”

Becker was responsible for restoring the “soldiers’ chambers” right underneath the quadriga, which served as quarters for the guards from the times of the Prussian King onwards. The supporting beams in these chambers were conserved with special wood treatments. Becker examined the walls and plaster to identify any damage, which was then thoroughly repaired. In this way, TÜV SÜD was involved in all aspects of the renovation and helped restore the Brandenburg Gate to its original splendor.